Arum italicum (light cigaro): the plant that drives away evil spirits

In botany it is known by the name Arum Italicum, although this plant is commonly called wild calla or gigaro. We are talking about a poisonous herbaceous plant that is not rarely used as an ornament both in the garden and in pots. Let’s see together everything there is to know about this particular plant.

Arum Italicum belongs to the Araceae family and is a rustic plant of European origin; it spreads very much in the wild in uncultivated places, but also on the side of the road or in vegetable gardens. Being a perennial plant, also the Gigaro, just like the calla, has a robust and rhizomatous root that is light brown in color.
This plant has a development in height that on average is around 40 cm and with the passage of time it manifests itself with large and dense bushes.


The leaves arise from a leathery petiole which usually develops with a length of 20 cm; they are shiny and very intense green in color and often show white spots. It is during the autumn season that the leaves are born from the tuber, while in the summer they dry out completely. A small peculiarity concerns the size of the leaves: the innermost ones are always longer than the external ones.
The lamina of the leaves is troubled and has wavy and smooth margins. During the spring season, shapely stems appear among the leaves of this plant; the stems have a green-white spathe inflorescence that ends with a yellow apex. From here small white flowers are born. Arum Italicum blooms during the spring season.
The fertilized flowers united in terminal spikes give rise to the fruits of this plant, which are nothing but small berries with a shiny and spherical shape. Initially the berries are green in color, and then turn into beautiful orange – red berries.
Be careful, because the berries of this plant are poisonous.


From the point of view of exposure, Arum Italicum prefers shady or at most semi-shaded environments.

Gigaro is not a plant that can stand the cold and low temperatures. To cultivate this plant it is good to use a soft, drained soil rich in organic substances.

Watering this plant is not particularly tiring: Arum Italicum, in fact, is a plant that is satisfied with rain and therefore should not be watered frequently.

The only precaution to have from this point of view is during the warm seasons, especially in periods when it rains little. For fertilization, the advice is to administer a fertilizer for flowering plants in liquid form or a slow-release granular fertilizer during the spring season.

Diseases and treatments

Being a rustic and wild plant, Arum Italicum is not afraid of many parasites. On the contrary, it is very subject to water stagnation which, in the long run, can cause the roots to rot. In any case, there are two pests to keep under control: the cottony cochineal and the spider mite. To eliminate these two parasites, the advice is to use a cotton swab with alcohol and water; in the most serious cases, however, it is advisable to purchase a natural pesticide.


The scientific name Arum derives from the Greek Aron which means heat. The choice of the name is not accidental: this plant, in fact, when it is in full bloom it can emit heat.  Italicum, on the other hand, derives from the locality of its first findings.

Like many plants, Arum Italicum also has a history of symbolism and superstition. In Abruzzo, for example, tradition states that the Gigaro is able to keep evil spirits away, to protect newborn children and to give love to the most unfortunate.

In ancient times, the starch extracted from its roots was used to starch the tissues. The rhizome of this plant was also used in medicine for its beneficial properties, in particular for its purgative and expectorant properties. Remember that it is a poisonous plant: ingesting the berries can be very dangerous, especially in children.

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