Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Credit it to horticultural breakthroughs, I guess; it seems like I've heard about a lot of Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) blooms in American botanical gardens the past few years. Unfortunately, so far they've all been in the east (except for one in California a couple months back that slipped past me). The Titan Arum is the largest member of a genus of some 170 spathe-bearing plant species found across the Paleotropics. The plant itself is an unassuming subterranean tuber native to Sumatra, but its inflorescence, which is pollinated by carrion flies and beetles, can grow to a height of nine feet, and is famous for smelling of rotten flesh. I once found a foot-high Nigerian Amorphophallus species by following its smell, which was potent from fifty feet away. I depicted the purple African plant near the upper center of the painting above.
Coturnix put up a post about the latest American blooming at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which includes some great photos of this spectacular species and a link to a webcam for the Brooklyn flower. Those of us who can't visit the flower can see it, if not smell it. I'm surprised by the inflorescence's small stature. Though it looks quite mature to me, perhaps it has a bit of growing yet to do. I'll surely be tuning in to that webcam periodically.
Xris at Flatbush Gardener is right in the neighborhood, and he has been blogging furiously about the plant with lots of interesting information resulting. Many of my questions have been answered there.
illustration: RED RIVER HOGS & GABOON VIPER (1994) acrylic 20" x 30"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one bloomed in Seattle last year.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

It seems to be increasingly likely that I'll get to see one befor I die.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing it is only half the fun. Smelling it, on the other hand....that is something to experience before one dies!

6:41 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

Roger: ...and thanks for the link to me!
Coturnix: Worldwide web smell transmission should be right around the corner.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I blogged about nothing else for the past week, I'm afraid. I visited twice, on Wednesday evening, just before it opened up, and Friday afternoon, after it peaked.

The Wikipedia article on Titan Arum has a table (incomplete) of recent blooms. There have been several in the United States this year. The week before the BBG bloom, there was one at Virgina Tech; BBG got their pollen from them. According to the table, a new one is blooming now in Volunteer Park in Seattle.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

Thanks, Xris! You've got some great stuff up! I've added a link to my post.

11:27 PM  

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