Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Waiting for the Big Opening

Remember the movie Stand By Me? "Want to see a dead body?" Well, yesterday's call to action was slightly different: "Want to smell a dead body?"

Right now, the Denver Botanic Gardens is the talk of the local news (and botany fans all over) for the "corpse flower" in its Orangery. This strange plant from Sumatra is classified as "vulnerable" on the endangered species list, and its infrequent growth cycle isn't helping that. When first planted, the flower takes on average 7 to 10 years to first bloom. After being open just 24 to 48 hours, it promptly wilts, and then doesn't bloom again for several more years. The one here in Denver is an especially late bloomer -- it's 15 years old and blooming only for the first time.

It's that month leading up to the bloom -- and the bloom itself -- that's especially strange. The flower grows several feet in just a few weeks. (This one has had days where it grew five inches in a single 24 hour period.) After around a month, and somewhere around the five and a half feet mark on average, the blooms peel open. It then emits the smell from which it gets its nickname -- a strong odor of rotting meat, apparently designed to draw in the carrion insects that pollinate it.

The corpse flower has been in local news over the last month during its rapid growth. One of the local news stations has even set up a camera where you can watch it live on YouTube. But near the end of last week, the talk intensified. The cultivators were fairly confident the flower would bloom on Sunday... maybe Monday. So my boyfriend and I (along with a friend) decided to get tickets for Monday night to see what the big stink was about.

Perhaps it's no surprise that a 15-year old flower that should have first grown around 5 years ago is late now that it's actually about to bloom. No bloom by the time of our visit. A crazy looking thing to see, to be sure, but no crazy smell.

Fortunately, there were other beautiful things to see around the slice of the Gardens. I now have enough desktop backgrounds to last a year. My one complaint would be that most of the flowers were unlabeled, so you didn't really know what they were.

For now, I guess I'll keep checking that webcam. We'll see when the corpse flower finally does decide to open up. Maybe there will be another opening -- in our schedule -- in the 24 hours after it does.

1 comment:

Joshua Delahunty said...

"Crazy looking."

You fail to mention that the scientific name literally means "Giant Misshapen Penis!" ;-)

Amorphophallus titanum (from Ancient Greek amorphos, "without form, misshapen" + phallos, "phallus", and titan, "giant")