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Titan Watch: The farewell ceremony for Alice the Amorphophallus.

  • To: lindsey@mallorn.com
  • Subject: Titan Watch: The farewell ceremony for Alice the Amorphophallus.
  • From: "Craig M. Allen" <cm_allen@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1999 20:19:29 -0500 (CDT)

Titan watch: Alice moves to the Herbarium
Amorphophallus titanum 931146A

.The farewell ceremony for Alice the Amorphophallus was well attended today.
A large number of Fairchild Garden staff, Garden members, the Coconut Grove
Garden Club, Georgia Tasker reporting for the Miami Herald, several television
stations, and some of Alice's visiting public were all gathered to record and
watch Dr. Scott Zona Harvest the 6 foot 1.5 inch inflorescence. I mention the
height because when we cut it down we found that it had grown an inch after we
thought it had quit and had stopped measuring it. 

I held the flower as the machete Scott wielded sliced into the stalk below the
spathe. Honestly it hurt.

It surprised me at how light that huge thing was. It is a strange sensation to
be carrying a flower that is taller than you are. We carefully laid it down on
the floor to further slice and dice the huge bloom into manageable pieces that
would fit into a herbarium press. 

Before any cutting, Scott measured all the parts of the enormous bloom,
recording each in his journal. He fully explained the process, importance, and
future of the plant material we were taking to a spell bound audience.

As Scott started cutting the spathe, the crowd quieted in anticipation. Then
when the ruffled spathe was removed from around the spadix the vivid deep red
was exposed to lots of ooo's and aaah's. The flower covered areas were really
beautiful, but what really surprised me was the beautiful lavender color on the
lower part of the hollow spadix area. The spadix looked for all the world like
a giant 6' pod of okra as it lay there, naked. I had seen pictures of the
inside of a titanum but this was right in front of me.

Slice went the spadix, and it fell into two pieces. I noticed that Scott and I
both checked our finger for any signs of the infamous odor that Amorphophallus
titanum is known for. There was no trace. Looking inside the hollow part of the
spadix was strange. The cavity is filled with slender white threads, looking
much like what one of those woven nylon kitchen scrubbing pads would look like
if it was pure white and had exploded. There was no obvious organ for producing
the oil responsible for the titan's stench. The plant material that filled the
lower solid part of the spadix had the look and feel of wet Styrofoam.

After being admired and photographed by all present, the spathe and spadix were
divided into sections that would fit on the herbarium specimen sheets. Two
complete sets were prepared and after bundling, the first bloom of Alice the
Amorphophallus was off to the Research Center dryer.

After the dissection at the Garden House, the drawing was held for the winner
of a young Amorphophallus titanum plant. We asked a young member of our
audience, Armond Boero, to put his hand in the large vase full of tickets and
draw the winning number. The young son of a Fairchild Garden member, he has
been so fascinated watching this bloom grow here at the Garden and on the
internet that his mother had him excused from his classes at Killian Oaks
Academy to witness the dissection in person. The name on the ticket Armond

Mrs. V. Spatz of Coconut Grove, Florida

I talked to her on the phone just a few minutes ago. She told me that she was
down at Fairchild's research facility and missed the dissection by about 1
hour. It turns out that she is a Fairchild Garden volunteer, and is about to
start working for Mike McLaughlin our Rainforest exhibit. She will adopt her
new plant tomorrow. We have agreed that I will visit her 1/2 acre bay front
home and garden to select a suitable location to raise her Titan.

…It's over. After three long… and all to short weeks There is no beautiful
flower waiting for me in the Garden House. Many of the staff I work with
thought I would be upset watching this operation. I thought so too, but once
that first slice of the machete was over my curiosity took over and I was as
fascinated as anyone else. As I took down the display later that afternoon, I
could almost her Alice the Amorphophallus (the tuber) thanking me for taking
the pot she lives in back to that nice wet Conservatory she has called home for
the last 4 years.

To see pictures take during the farewell ceremony for Alice the Amorphophallus,
point your internet connection to: 


Good night again.

Craig M. Allen
Conservatory Manager 'Windows to the Tropics'
Fairchild Tropical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road, Miami, Florida 33156
Tel. 305-667-1651 ext. 3320   FAX 305-661-8953
email: cm_allen@yahoo.com
Web site: http://www.ftg.org
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