Field of Science

A damned big Jack-in-the-pulpit

If you've never seen, or smelled, an Amorphophallus in flower, it's something to see (see if you can figure out the name).  Like all aroids, this isn't a flower, but an inflorescence and a modified leaf, a bract, in the terminology of the family, a spadix and a spathe.  Hundreds of unisexual flowers are hidden from view at the base of the spadix.  This is the titan, the largest such inflorescence in the world at 2+ meters tall.  TPP once had a smaller species bloom in his house, not exactly a planned event, but the basketball sized corm was being overwintered when it flowered.  This smaller species had an inflorescence just a bit over a meter tall and it was raised on a half-meter stalk.  The fragrance produced lures in pollinators, beetles and flies, and it smells like rotting flesh, carrion.  The pollinators use carrion for a brood substrate, which is not provided, so they are cruelly deceived by the plant. Beetles are particularly fun because as the beetles fly in they more or less fly directly into the pylon that is the spadix, and as the fall, the funnel like spathe dumps them down to the bottom where the female flowers are located, ready to be pollinated provided that the beetles have chanced upon another such aroid a bit earlier.  At any rate these are a lot of fun to see, in someone else's greenhouse. Many of these inflorescences also heat up, a mechanism for dispersing more of their attractant odor. Jolly good fun for the whole family.  Aroids aren't the only flowers that use such pollinators (see here, here, and here), aroids are just the most famous.

No comments: