Thursday, August 10, 2006

Revenge of the Corpse Flower!

If you care in any way about flowers, and I most certainly do, there's something really neat happening right now at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. The Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum, is blooming. This specimen has been growing for TEN years without flowering. No really, it's grown to about seven feet tall and it's blooming as I type this, and will be for the next day or so. The BBG has a live webcam set up to capture it, as well as a blog and copius amounts of information. The plant, AKA the titan arum, comes from Sumatra, the Indonesian island that's pretty much all rainforest, coffee plants, and orangutans. The first to bloom in cultivation was in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London in 1889, and women weren't permitted to view it... the fact that "phallus" is in its Latin name is not an accident (look at the photo!). The first titan arum in the States bloomed in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx in 1937, and again in 1939, and was the official plant of the borough until 2000. When they bloom, they release clouds of noxious fumes that smell like rotting carcasses that can be smelled up to a half mile away by humans, sickening anyone near it, which acts to attract carrion-feeding insects. These insects then carry the plant's pollen to other titan arums to fertilize them. Crazy, but it works, because they're still around. Yum.

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