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Re: Amorphophallus titanum at Selby - update

News from Selby Gardens - Amorphophallus titanum update:

After our first A. titanum opening on Thursday evening, May 20, we came back 
early the next morning to set up for crowds and to watch this wonderful 
specimen in all its glory, fully expanded throughout the day. The spathe 
extended to a diameter of 42 inches at maximum expansion and held there 
beautifully through the whole day. Huge crowds came to see it and I can't 
even begin to imagine the quantities of film that were shot over the next 48 
hours. The press and several professional photographers arrived very early 
Friday morning so they could set up all their paraphernalia and get the shots 
they wanted, then scoot out of the way for the general public. I must add 
that it takes a rather large space to display this plant in full flower, and 
we had a difficult time finding a suitable location, but somehow it all 
worked and I think everyone who viewed the inflorescence came away pretty 
satisfied with the experience.

The female flowers were receptive Thursday night, when the odor was most 
intense, and through all of the day Friday. The smell had thankfully 
diminished from the previous evening, but was still available in a milder 
form to tantalize the audience, who fully expected to catch a good whiff. By 
the end of the day, the odor had diminished even more, but those with 
sensitive noses still commented upon the stink. Waves of odor wafted 
throughout the lines waiting to get up into the viewing area. I don't think 
anyone complained about not getting a sniff, but those of us who had 
experienced the full power on Thursday evening during the opening were all 
grateful that the crowds only had the tame version. I think most of the 
audience would not have tolerated the maximum dose!

Harry Luther checked the inflorescence periodically throughout the day for 
pollen, but nothing appeared until about 9 PM on Friday night. As soon as it 
began, pollen streamed out of the male flowers in long filaments and 
continued throughthe rest of the evening and into the early morning hours. We 
cut a viewing window in the side of the spathe so we could see the pollen 
falling out in long sticky strings from the bead-like yellow male flowers. 
Apparently some of the female flowers still appeared receptive, but I do not 
know if indeed any were pollinated. Quantities of pollen were collected and 
are now stored awaiting the second flower.

Saturday morning arrived, and with front page coverage we had throngs waiting 
at the gate to enter. By this time, the spathe was starting to fold 
upwards...and it continued closing at a sometimes remarkable pace through the 
day. The width of the spathe opening diminished at a maximum rate of one inch 
every 15-20 minutes at its peak...it was almost like watching the plant open 
in reverse, for we had experienced this same rate of movement when the spathe 
expanded on Thursday evening. Still, the crowds held and there was 
occasionally a few weak gasps of rotten smell that visitors could remark 
upon, but nothing like the previous day. Everyone marveled at the jewel-like 
flowers visible through the window in the spathe, especially the children. By 
9 PM, the spathe width was only 21 inches....reduced in half from the full 
expansion. The spathe now stands almost straight up and spathe edges are 
looking very dry and weathered, curling under. The spadix has become more 
hollow with much thinner walls.

The second inflorescence showed signs of opening last night and we stayed 
until about 9:30 to see if anything would happen, but both plants seemed to 
be resting. And since we all badly needed rest, everyone finally went home, 
but now it is back for another day of excitement as we wait for the next 
opening. We all feel as though we are riding (flying) on a wave of euphoria 
(perhaps a side effect of inhaling so much of the noxious odor?). It will 
soon all be over, and it has been an unforgettable experience. 

Next update: pollination.....

Donna Atwood
Selby Gardens
811 S. Palm Ave.
Sarasota, FL 34236
phone: (941) 954-1237
fax: (941) 366-9807
e-mail: selbyhort@aol.com

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