Saturday, August 3, 2013

Amorphophallus titanum

Before too much time passes, I really need to put some text to this posting.  It's been two weeks!

On Wednesday, July 31st I noticed a posting on Facebook from one of my links, the Olbrich Gardens in Madison, WI.  It was informing the public that the DC Smith Greenhouse at the University of WI at Madison had a blooming corpse plant.  At the time of the posting, the 'bloom' was still tightly folded, but the assumption was that it would open sometime in the upcoming weekend.  I was scheduled to work the entire following weekend, but had one day left - the Thursday.  I hoped it would bloom then.
The Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan Arum is a native plant to Indonesia.  It exists in various stages, cycling between a leafing phase, and a blooming phase.  The plant can live upwards to 40 years, and may bloom only 4 or 5 times during its life, unpredictably.  It's bloom is the largest of any plant in the world.  The species has been taken into horticulture for only the past 100 years, and during that time blooms are rare and wondrous events.  As time goes by, there are more botanical experts in arboretums and greenhouses that are raising this rare flora species, so the opportunity to see a bloom becomes possible.  Such was this opportunity!

If you would like to read more about this plant, click on the link below.

Titan Arum

Via a web cam the University set up, as well as their web page, it was announced at 1 pm on Thursday that the bloom was opening, a process which takes about 3 to 4 hours.  The bloom of a Titan arum only lasts for about 2 days.  It is also quite famous for its fragrance . . . or perhaps I should call it a stench.  The corpse plant relies on flies and beetles to pollinate it, and thus it emits a rather foul odor to attract them.  The unusual appearance of the plant, as well as its rather anti-social fragrance, makes it a darling to the general community.  When one blooms, they get lots of visitors.  It was crazy, on a work night, but I wanted to see it!  Richard was a good sport, and humored me by taking me (going with me ~ I can drive on my own) on the three-hour drive, each way, to see it.  The greenhouse was staying open until 9 pm for the guests who would come and visit.  For my part, I bought him a bubble tea while in town, and then dinner at the Dells on the way home.

Yes!  The plant was smelly!  It is common for those who have successfully raised and coaxed a corpse plant to bloom to name the plant.  This one was called Dennis, in honor of one of the botany professors who had passes away recently.  Dennis was rather small, as corpse plants go, but still oh so interesting to see.  To my nose it smelled rather like sewer, than rotting meat.  Either way, you don't want to stay in the same room with Dennis for a long time, as it could make you a bit nauseated.  Richard didn't really want to get too close, but let me take his picture.

The staff will pollinate the flower with pollen from other corpse plants, secured from other locations that have had blooming corpse plants.  The resulting seeds will be shared among the botanical community.  They most likely also harvested the pollen to share in the future.

It was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Thank You Rich for letting me meet Dennis.

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