Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Titan Arum Blooms in Washington, DC

The big news in Washington, DC just before Thanksgiving was the blooming of the (in)famous Amorphophallus titanum, a.k.a. "titan arum", a.k.a. "corpse flower". Guess why it got that last name (hint: the flowers are thought to be pollinated by carrion beetles). The plant in question belongs to the Smithsonian Institution and was grown in the Smithsonian's research greenhouses but was moved to the U.S. Botanic Garden on the National Mall so the public could view it. This was a highly anticipated event and got quite a bit of local press, and even received some national coverage. The fact that these bloom so rarely, and the whole thing is only open for 2 days, added to the excitement. Here's a sign announcing it at the entrance to the USBG:

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Dan's niece, Erin, was visiting that weekend and I had missed the one that bloomed in 2003 so of course I had to drag them to see it. Fortunately it was a beautiful day because we had to wait in line for an hour:

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To our surprise, when we finally got to the door, there was a security guard directing everybody to have cell phones, cameras, laptops, backpacks, and pretty much everything else X-rayed before we could go in through the metal detector:

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There was another line inside, but fortunately there were some interesting plants to look at on the way, like this Ensete species (a banana relative) that was kind enough to pose with Dan and Erin:

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There were also some interesting cycads, of which I took some closeups of their sex organs:

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We finally came upon the titan arum itself, which we could smell before we rounded the corner to see it. It wasn't a horrible, stop-you-in-your-tracks odor, more of a vaguely unpleasant funkiness. The flowering structure was slightly less than 5 feet tall. Frankly, Dan and Erin were a little underwhelmed after how much I had hyped it. Note all the people taking photos with their cell phones:

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And a reaction shot with Erin:

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On the way out we walked around the conservatory, enjoying a little bit of the tropics one last time before winter finally hits. Here I am with Dan in the main conservatory:

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For more information from the Smithsonian Institution about the Titan Arum, including a series of photos showing the plant as it grew and finally opened: http://persoon.si.edu/titan

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in Mrs. Boggans class. We read about the Corpse plant in our Weekly Reader. Then she showed us your website. The Corpse plant isvery interesting!

3/22/2006 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey!I am in Mrs.Boggans class.Mrs.Boggan gave us these Weekly Readers and we read about the corps plant.We read about the smell too!Those pictures are really great,and those other plants looked amazing.I wish i could go to Washington,but school.Well I have do math,so bye!

3/22/2006 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am in mrs. boggan's class. i think it is so cool that you can learn all about plants. In are weekly reader we are learing about corpe plants! I love your website and all the cool pictures!!!!! It must have been really cool to see it bloom! thanks

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