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: September to January

Kaurna name: Walyu

Description and uses:

There are two plants that fit this description Arthropodium stricta (Chocolate 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.

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

Beside the vanilla scent, the best way to tell these plants is that the petals twist as the flowers age, starting to crinkle at the edges, later they twist fully closed.

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

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

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.