This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Erect or dwarf perennials with thick rhizomes and pedate or hastate leaves. Flowers devoid of perianth, unisexual, clustered on the lower part of the spadix; female flowers below, and separated from the males by barren or rudimentary ones. Spathe large, convolute; spadix naked and club-shaped at the top. About forty species are known, from the temperate and warm regions of the North. The derivation of the generic name is doubtful. Besides the British species alluded to above, there are two or three other hardy species occasionally seen in gardens. Of these A, Dracunculus, syn. Dracunculus vulgaris, is perhaps the best known. It grows from 2 to 3 feet high, with the petiolate leaves pedately divided into five lanceolate segments. The stem and petioles are covered with dark purplish blotches. Spathe green ontside and purplish within. South Europe.