Setting the facts straight about arum lilies and frogs

A campaign urging residents not to purchase arum lilies from vendors at the side of the road seems to be gaining momentum whilst spreading inaccurate information about arum lilies two of the Cape’s amphibians, the arum lily frog and micro frog.

This misleading information has also gone viral, and is being spread via e-mail and social networking tools.  The ERM Department, in conjunction with CapeNature and the South African National Biodiversity Institute would like to highlight the facts.

The information being circulated refers to an ‘arum lily micro frog’ which does not exist.  There are, however, two different species of frog, namely the micro frog (Microbatrachella capensis) and the arum lily frog (Hyperolius horstockii). The micro frog is smaller than a fingernail, while the arum lily frog is somewhat larger, growing to about 40 mm in length.

It has been reported that the ‘arum lily micro frog’ is in danger because of the sale of arum lilies, but this is not at all correct for either of the frog species.

No frog species breeds in the flowers of arum lilies. While the arum lily frog occasionally uses the flowers for shelter, it is not dependant on them. Arum lily frogs breed in wetlands and not in the flowers of the arums. The micro frog is ground-dwelling, breeding in temporary pools, and it does not climb into any flowers.

Arum lily frogs are very pale and they hide their bright orange feet and legs under their bodies during the day. In this way, the frog is able to use a white background as camouflage against predators and this background is sometimes the white arum flower. They do not use the pollen of the flowers to camouflage themselves, as has been suggested.

 Arum lily frogs are only found in the Western Cape (and a small area of the Eastern Cape) and sadly, the species is becoming increasingly rare as their habitat is lost to urban development.

While the illegal harvesting of arum lilies will not lead to the extinction of arum lily frogs, the sale of illegally harvested flora at traffic lights is cause for concern. If left unchecked, other illegally harvested plants such as proteas, ericas, and various bulb species may be seen at traffic lights in the future.

The City does not wish to deter the public from purchasing flowers from hawkers – as long as they are legal retailers. All roving vendors and intersection traders selling flowers are illegal. However, traders selling flowers in demarcated trading bays are legal, and regulated by the City. The City encourages the public to report illegal trading on 021 596 1400/1424.

The ERM Department is currently updating its pamphlets on frogs and lilies, and will distribute them widely in an attempt to ensure that the public receives the correct information.

 Extracts from media release Issued by: City of Cape Town

 Media enquiries: Clifford Dorse, Biodiversity Co-ordinator, Biodiversity Management Branch, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 514 4159 or Cell: 083 440 1751

 Dr John Measey, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Tel: 021 799 8860