Tag Archives: Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Moody Gardens in January – 5

Crocodile monitor

Every relationship thrives on the little moments, when you see your loved one in his or her true light. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than watching that little vein in the middle of my beloved’s forehead throb with exasperation, usually when I make some innocent suggestion. For instance, telling her “Did you know that Moody Gardens has a crocodile monitor on display?” makes it pulse like the lights in a techno nightclub, because she knows what’s next. Namely, three dozen photos while I ask her “And how could you say ‘No’ to that cute widdle face? I mean, it’s like a big scaly cat, and I’m sure we could tame it down. We could even let it sleep at the foot of the bed like one.” That’s usually when the pulsing stops, and I can hear the sound of her Elbows of Doom as they slide out of their sheathes and drool venom on the carpet. And now you know why we’ve been together for the last 11 years, because there’s no way I could ever get tired of that sort of excitement.

Crocodile monitor

After a chat with some of the reptile keepers at Moody Gardens, I discovered that they have a tradition for naming many of the reptiles. All of the venomous snakes in the facility, ranging from bushmasters to Gaboon vipers, have names after flowers, such as “Daffodil” and “Tulip”. The crocodile monitor, though, is named “Mr. Awesome,” and it’s only partly sardonic. The Gardens use stout nets to keep many of their animals in one place while also allowing good air circulation, and Mr. Awesome spends most of his time testing every last space on the net to see if he can get out. He’s particularly studious when kids walk by, and I can only imagine how industrious he is about trying to escape when the net opens for feeding or cleaning. Everybody should have a Mr. Awesome in their lives, don’t you think?

Crocodile monitor

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?