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Posts Tagged ‘corpse flower’

Trudy the Corpse Flower

Trudy the Corpse Flower

Trudy the Corpse Flower

You can catch flies with honey, but you can catch even more with the stench of carrion. I went to see Trudy the corpse flower blooming at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley. Corpse flowers (Amorphophallus titanum) earn that lovely goth name by exuding the stench of rotting meat to attract flies to act as pollinators, and they’re not shy about it. The smell is potent, Trudy filed the UC glass house with the smell of roadkill goat, and it’s effective, too; there were ten or twenty flies buzzing around it while I was there, and apparently there’s a bigger swarm in the morning when the smell is strongest. And it’s all a con job on the flies; they lay their eggs thinking there will be food for their offspring, but the children hatch and starve without a genuine carcass to feed on.

The flower is six feet tall and impressive even without the stench. Corpse flowers are from Malaysia and they take seven or more years to bloom, waiting until the plant’s corm weighs thirty pounds or more. The bloom, which is actually a collection of little flowers, has a claim as the biggest inflorescence in the world, and the spadix (the big spike sticking up in the middle) generates heat, up to twenty degrees warmer than the ambient temperature. Someone at the garden has a sensor set up to test if the plant gives off a biomagnetic field the way humans and animals do.

This particular corpse flower, Trudy, first bloomed in 2005 at age twelve, and then waited four years to bloom again, making this her second time blooming, though the garden has others which bloomed while Trudy was resting. The bloom will only last a couple of days before it gets pollinated and collapses. The garden’s website has tons of photos and regular updates. For years, we’ve been getting emails every time one of them blooms, but this was the first time I went by to check it out, and, I gotta say, it was pretty cool. There are seedlings for sale if you want to pay thirty dollars for an indoor plant that requires constant watering and feeding and smells like carrion when it blooms. Photos of nice-smelling flowers are below. (more…)