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Trip to Hortus Botanicus, Leiden

  • To: Multiple recipients of list AROID-L <aroid-l@mobot.org>
  • Subject: Trip to Hortus Botanicus, Leiden
  • From: Al Wootten <awootten@NRAO.EDU>
  • Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 22:01:04 -0600 (CST)


Just back from a trip to the ALMA science advisory committee meeting in
Leiden...that went well but a high point of the adventure was a side trip to
the Hortus Botanicus there.  I missed seeing Wilbert but there were lots
of araceae friends about.

Ewine had told me that the Hortus, the Leiden botanical garden, had
recently lost a large tree and was closed for renovation.  Indeed there
was a huge new greenhouse poking above some construction walls.  I had
some trouble finding the entrance, but finally saw a small bridge over a canal
which stopped at a closed gate.  I tried it, and it was open, so I went in.
After browsing the carefully marked beds for a while, I proceeded to the
greenhouses.  Along one side I found a few of my quarry--Sauromatum,
Dracunculis and other aroid monsters were just poking their
brownery above the black soil.  A few blank spots were labelled Arisaema.
Then I saw the greenhouse entrance and went in.  The first few rooms had
some interesting palms and Dieffenbachia but nothing
to set my heart racing.  Then I turned left and into a new room.  To the
right were ferns and just ahead AMORPHOPHALLI!  I went up to the huge A.
titanum along the right wall.  Finally, after all these years of
hearing of this great plant I was confronted by it.  Its lovely green
stem, more splotched with lighter color at the base, then getting more
gradual, ended in the familiar trio of Amorphophallus leaves about
twenty feet or so above my head.  Wow!  Along the wall were a few other
aroids, a Dracontium gigas and a few other interesting Amorphophalli.  A
photo on the wall showed the titanum flower which had opened
a few years before, and which Ewine had visited and smelled.  I
wandered into the corridor on the left and there were more aroids--a whole
forest of A. titanum (seedlings of the great blossom, I wondered?  I did notice
that one was labelled Bonn, so I conjectured that there were at least two
sources).  And wonder of wonders, an exquisite collection of Nepenthes!  I
rued my decision not to bring my camera (long walk).  Particularly wonderful
was Nepenthes rattlesiana, with enormous pitchers encrusted with spines and
protrusions.  I returned to the main hall and headed onward.  On the left I
noticed a whole room of Amophophalli, off limits to casual
visitors.  Quite a few were either in bloom, or just rising from their
pots for the season.  From my distance, alas, I couldn't quite make out the
tags.  Two or three passes along the glass straining my eyes
and I was ready for whatever came next.  A sign pointed to a stairway where
the Victoria water lily was promised, so I ascended into a room centered on
a pool with aquatic plants all about including the famous lily.  My attention
was drawn to a specimen of Orontium aquaticum L. in abundant bloom on the far
wall, single white spathes thrusting upward everywhere from the water, fading
to white and topped with brilliant yellow protuberances.
Even more exotic than the fabled Victoria waterlily.  Further along, a
wonderful collection of Cryptocoryne, the first aroid I had grown, in my
aquarium as a boy.  Very nice specimens of Pellandrum virginica and Anubias
barteri were also there, but a heavily flowering Lagernandra orata was my
favorite along the wall opposite Orontium.  Down a staircase on the far side
of this room was an orchid house, mostly closed, and the exit.  I turned
around to revisit all of these wonders and dwell in the shade of
A. titanum for a few moments more before heading back along the Rapenburg
to the Beestenmarkt.  Near here, nearly twenty years before, at the
International House, I had first become acquainted with Leiden.

Clear skies,
|Al Wootten, Slacktide, Sturgeon Creek at the Rappahannock|
|Astronomer (http://www.cv.nrao.edu/~awootten/)           |
|genealogy homepage  http://members.tripod.com/~astral    |
|Deltaville, Virginia              (804)776-6369          |

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