Field Trip, August 9, 2006, #1 of 3: Amorphophallus titanum at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

[Updated 2006.08.10 20:15 EDT: Added link to today's article in the New York Times.]

We made it to BBG this evening, and I was not disappointed. To see all the photos, visit the flickr set I created for them.

A. titanum, detail of where the spadix emerges from the spathe. This picture best captures the subtle colors and sensuous textures of this magnificent plant.

The Cliff Notes version:
  • The flower does not smell. Yet. The infamous stench erupts only while the female flowers are receptive, which may be only a few hours.
  • BBG staff can't predict exactly when it will peak.
  • It may peak as early as this Friday, or as late as Monday. You can visit their Titan arum webcam page to keep track of its progress.
  • The fact that it's blooming at all is unexpected. They only learned barely two weeks ago that the current growth of the plant is a bloom and not a leaf.
  • This evening's program included brief lectures by Dr. Alessandro Chiari, BBG’s plant propagator, and Mark Fisher, foreman of BBG’s Steinhardt Conservatory.
  • There was not enough time for me to ask all the questions I had.

My first encounter with A. titanum, taken through the windows of the Bonsai House. Note the open windows. These open directly onto the patio where they serve food and drink from the Terrace Cafe. I wonder what will happen to appetites when the bloom peaks and reeks.
There were several local film crews there when we arrived, interviewing the BBG staff and a few visitors. I don't know why he's looking at me funny!

Stepping just inside the Bonsai House, we see the placement of "Baby" and film crew interviewing some of the visitors. The flat stones in the foreground and the empty benches around the perimeter normally house BBG's bonsai collection.

A view of (nearly) the entire bloom. The enveloping spathe is starting to pull away from the central spadix. Where the spathe overlaps itself can be considered the "front" of the flower. The sign to the right reads "CORPSE FLOWER, TITAN ARUM, Amorphophallus titanum, Sumatra, Indonesia".

A couple of detail shots of the spadix emerging from the spathe, shot from different places around the plant. The ribbing of the spathe will support it when it opens fully, like a huge burgundy velvet dress, at peak bloom. The whole thing has a rather muscular and animalistic feel to it. It reminded me of Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors" which I saw years ago at the Orpheum Theatre in the East Village.

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