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Power to the Flower - Amorphophallus gigas Aug.14, 2000

  • To: Multiple recipients of list AROID-L <aroid-l@mobot.org>
  • Subject: Power to the Flower - Amorphophallus gigas Aug.14, 2000
  • From: "FTG Conservatory, Craig Allen" <conserv@netrox.net>
  • Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 10:35:27 -0500 (CDT)

Power to the Flower

I got to work Monday morning August 14, 2000 and as I suspected the first of
the blooming Amorphophallus gigas FG 941491E was finished. The upper third
of the spadix had fallen over, though the tall peduncle was still standing
proud. Friday there had been no pollen, just glossy burgundy bumps, so I was
afraid it had come and gone already. I got the ladder out and up I went.
Even though the inflorescence was past its prime, the odor of rotten flesh
was still clinging to it like long dead road kill.

Guess what, there still quite a bit of pollen on the male flowers! It is not
the brilliant yellow I remember from the A. titanum, but I collected it
anyway. I managed to get about 2 teaspoons to work with. For once the recent
lack of rain worked in my favor.

I moved the ladder over to the other huge blooming Amorphophallus gigas FG
941491C which at that particular moment was releasing a horrible stench. Iím
sure that has something to do with its common name, Devilís Tongue.

Oooooh! Oooooooooooh, That's not nice.

[A little funny from last week:  While potting up the huge A. titanum tuber,
the first A. gigas was reeking. We had several staff there watching and
filming as we put the 68 pound tuber in the new pot. A few audience members
had to leave to attend an important executive meeting. People at this
meeting started to look around to see where an "unusual" odor was emanating
from. It turned out to be odor clinging to their clothing, just from the oil
vapor in the air of the Conservatory. It wasn't unbearable but not pleasant
and easily detectable. That's the power of Amorphophallus. ÖPower to the
Flower! I do get carried away sometimes.]

Back to the original story...
I climbed the ladder, but it wasn't tall enough to get me up to the spadix.
I cleared an area and put the ladder up on the bench. With your face up at
the level of the spathe and spadix I can see how beautiful this massive
"flower" really is. The spathe is very glossy and the spadix the most
beautiful deep burgundy color.

Oh. but it stinks! As the nausea swept over me Mary Collins kept saying
"It's just a plant, it's just a plant." I've got to remember to not breathe
through my nose.

I reached my hand down into the funnel of the spathe and touched the
stigmatic surface of the female flowers. They had a very sticky thick glue
like material that I could feel adhering to my hand. That's great. They
should be receptive. I got out my fat camel hair makeup brush and pushed it
down into the homemade funnel of white office paper that held the precious
yellow pollen from the other plant. The dust clung thickly to the camel
hair. I carefully spread the spathe for better access and lightly brushed
the pollen onto the hopefully eager female flowers low down inside the
inflorescence. There is six or more inches of the lower spadix covered by
these flowers. I had enough pollen to dust these flowers all the way around.

.oooh man, this thing really smells bad right now.

Now Iím just going to have to wait. Like the Night Before Christmas Iíll see
visions of  Devils Tongues dance in my head. Kind of a obsessive
horticultural dream, but its my dream.

Craig M. Allen
Conservatory Manager
Fairchild Tropical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, Florida 33156-4296
Tel. 305-667-1651 ext. 3320
Fax 305-661-8953
e-mail conserv@netrox.net
web: www.ftg.org

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