Tag Archives: amorphophallus titanum

Moody Gardens in January – 4

Moody Gardens Rainforest pyramid

The longer I work with carnivorous plants, the more I appreciate the merits of the whole plant, not just the structures used for capturing insect prey. Yes, the pitchers on a Sarracenia pitcher plant are beautiful and exotic, but there’s an equal beauty in the blooms and rhizomes, and further beauty in the plant’s entire life cycle over the space of the year. To understand the plant, you have to view it over its entire growing season, from spring budding to final winter dieback, and not just focus on one tiny part of the life cycle. Don’t take the time to check on the pitcher plant over the entire year, and you miss a lot of the inherent beauty because you’re only focusing on its prime insect-catching period.

This applies to many other plants, including a plant famous for its blooms. The titan arum, Amorphophallus titanum, is best known for its gigantic and foul-smelling flowers, which are rare enough to be newsworthy. When a titan arum in a big greenhouse starts to flower, news crews and general bystanders converge on the flowers much like the flies needed for their pollination. But how many people look at the rest of the plant after the bloom shrivels and dies?

That’s why I have a special love for the extensive crew managing the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens in Galveston, because they understand this, too. Sure, they could make a big deal about a new A. titanum bloom, but what about the majesty of the full-grown plant?

Amorphophallus titanum

In most displays of this type, the emphasis is usually on the animals, with the plants being not much more than background. This is completely understandable: we humans in particular and we mammals in general are the end-result of millions of years of pattern recognition encouragement. In most cases, we not only ignore the majority of the flora surrounding the occasional bit of fauna, but we actively block out the flora unless it directly affects us. Think about the last time you went for a walk in woodlands: seeing a toad crossing the path made more of an impression than the trees surrounding that path, didn’t it?

Amorphophallus titanum

The Moody Gardens titan arum is near the center of the pyramid, and easily accessible when navigating the trails meandering along its floor. The branches stretch well overhead, but the trunk is close enough to touch. Strangely, nobody does: it almost seems disrespectful to do so. Just getting the chance to see a fully-grown titan arum is fascinating enough, but to stand underneath one and view the underside of the foliage…that I could do for hours.

Amorphophallus titanum

More to follow…

Things To Do In Galveston When You’re Dead

The Czarina and her best friend are absolute suckers for visiting Galveston in the off-season, but I’ve had to beg off their previous trips because of Day Job and plant schedules. (We love each other dearly, but sometimes our taking vacations by ourselves is the only way the other can get anything done without interruptions, such as starting an idle conversation that ends sometime around 3 in the morning.) However, hearing about the new Amorphophallus titanum bloom at the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid in Galveston means that I may have to tag along on the next trip. Besides, how could I resist visiting a plant nicknamed “Morticia?

“Civil behavior must be rewarded, Captain, or else there’s no use for it.”

You have to love the Internet. Fifteen years ago, most people had never heard of the famed corpse flower Amorphophallus titanum, and advance notice on one blooming in captivity usually arrived after the bloom had shriveled and collapsed. Now, the biggest surprise is how many A. titanum specimens are in captivity in the United States alone. I somehow have this image of corpse flower groupies, traveling the country in old Volkswagen Microbuses like Grateful Dead fans, somehow scraping together enough money to make it to the next blooming before it’s gone.

Anyway, the latest news on A. titanum doesn’t involve a bloom, but rather a companion. The Houston Museum of Natural Science just saw its corpse flower “Lois” bloom, and the Museum just received a donation of a new plant, just starting to sprout. Apparently the new plant needs a name, so the Museum opened up a naming competion. The prize for the winning entry is the usual “bragging rights,” as well as a museum membership and a private tour with the Museum’s horticulturalists.

My only disappointment so far is that some of the suggested names are good and dark, but not good and dark enough. C’mon: “Morticia” and “Wednesday” are okay, but we’re talking about a beast with the common name “corpse flower”. What’s wrong with “Bub”?