Chocolate or Vanilla lily (Arthropodium sp)

Beautiful scented flowers of a Vanilla Lily,
Beautiful scented flowers of a Vanilla Lily

Common names: Chocolate Lily, Vanilla Lily

Taxonomic name: Arthropodium species, Dichopogon strictus

FamiIy: Lilliaceae

Habitat: Woodlands, Mallee

Form: Clumping, upright stem

Flowering Time: Spring to Summer

Kaurna name: Walyu


Description

There are two plants that fit this description Arthropodium strictum (Chocolate or Vanilla Lily) and A. fimbriatum – its ‘nodding’ cousin, ‘Nodding Chocolate Lily’ which is a little less common here.

This is a plant with many descriptive common names which pertain to the beautiful smell the flowers exude – Chocolate Lily, Vanilla Lily are the two most descriptive and common. They really smell like chocolate or vanilla! It’s widespread in the hills at this time of year (early Summer as I write this), making striking displays of pink and purple along the roadsides near Williamstown.

Linear, grass-like leaves with pale purple flowers to thigh high. The flowers have 6 petals and have dark purple stamens. They have a vanilla scent and the petals crinkle at the edges and twist as they age, until they are fully closed. They are around from September to January.

Arthropodium flowers twist as they wither.
Arthropodium flowers twist as they wither.

Uses

The flowers are tasty but don’t seem to have as much taste as they do smell.

Folks mostly eat the tubers that grow on the ends of the roots underground but I’ve got a preference for the base of the plant where the leaves join. It’s only a little way underground and is much more accessible than the tubers which are about 10-15 cm down. It doesn’t need digging, just grasp the base at soil level and pull. Peel off the fibrous outer layer and away you go. That way, you don’t have to disturb the soil.

An edible Arthropodium leaf base.
An edible Arthropodium leaf base.