Whipcord Cobra Lily: Plant mimicry

It’s normal for one to get startled when they encounter Cobra Lily for the first time in the wild. The trumpet shaped flowers along with whip-like tongue resembles as if a Cobra snake is lurking out and with its tongue. It’s monsoon in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand and Cobra lilies are in full bloom in the thickets, hillslopes and woodlots. There are various instances of mimicry in plants is where a plant organism evolves to resemble another organism physically or chemically, increasing the mimic’s Darwinian fitness. Maybe, Cobra Lily flower mimicked to provide protection against herbivory or to attract pollinators.

©Whip-Cord Cobra Lily

Cobra Lily (Arisaema tortuosum var. tortuosum) or Whipcord Cobra Lily also known as Jack in the pulpit is native to open Rhododendron forests, scrub and alpine meadows in the Himalaya from India to western China to southern India and Myanmar (Burma). It often grows as weed in the green understory along the hillslopes and tracts.

©Cobra Lily flower

With the onset of monsoons, the leaves unfurl and the pitcher that tops the stem opens to reveal a green Cobra Lily flower. Often the spadix-appendage is green, but when flowers mature, they can turn purple. This whip-like tongue can extend from the mouth of the flower upto 12 or more inches. During autumn season, this plant can be identified with the help of bright red ripened berries on the tall stem of these plants.

© Cobra Lily

The plant has various ethnomedicinal properties and has immense potential for future prospectives for exploration of its pharmacological activity for treating various diseases. According to the indigenous people of Kumaun Himalaya region of Uttarakhand, the herb is used to cure various ailments related to digestive tract like constipation, indigestion, abdominal pain and dysentery. It also has antinematodal activities and also used treat bone fracture. This plant is also used in ethnoveterinary medicine.

© Cobra Lily flower alongwith plant

Besides having various medicinal properties Cobra Lily can be used in outside as well as indoor gardens and balconies due to its unique appearance. It is also used as back border or focal plant due to its height, beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers and leaf texture.


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Published by Dr. Chandrima Debi

Hi, I am Chandrima Debi. I am a Doctorate in Forestry and an independent researcher. Ever since childhood, I experienced deep-rooted connection with nature, forest and wildlife. I have written various research articles, case studies based on geology, forests, medicinal plants, biodiversity and conservation. Through this blog I share my experiences with nature and forests around us and aid towards the protection and conservation of biodiversity, wildlife and the values associated.

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