Monday, August 14, 2006

Here's Baby, in full frontal glory! Funny thing about this picture is that you MIGHT think that I had taken a cleverly lined-up shot of a normal sized flower sitting on a table...

So here's a better one for perspective. For all the much-vaunted stinkiness of the Titan Arum flower -- oops, I know better now & should say "inflorescence" -- the greenhouse didn't smell. At all. I was quite surprised, I was expecting something along the lines of, oh, the way the Fulton Fish Market used to smell during a heat wave, but at most I caught the tiniest whiff as I walked past. Even that may have been my imagination. Here's a lady who really wants to find out for sure!

I initially went through WAY too fast. The line actually wasn't bad at all - at times, you could almost walk right in, if you didn't want to stop & read the info they'd put on large signs in the queue area for people to read while they waited - but the security guards were really trying to keep people moving along. "Take your pictures, then move along". Well, I was a good girl, took my pictures & hurried along - then as I walked out, I realized that I had taken pictures - but I hadn't really taken a good look at this amazing thing for my own memory (it's NOT the same thing!). So, back I went through the non-existent line & this time actually looked - both at the INFLORESCENCE (I know that now!) and at people reacting. Not sure which was more fun. Then, it was time for Baby's star turn!

That's when the botanist turned up. It's such a pleasure to see someone TRULY enjoying their job - this gentleman was having a great time fielding questions. I asked why it didn't stink - he explained that the inflorescence has male flowers and female flowers, and in order to avoid self-pollination, the female flowers open first. They're the ones that stink, but the production of the smell, and the heat the plant generates to diffuse the aroma, takes a lot of energy, only lasts for about 12 hours. Having done their thing and gotten pollinated by the flies & beetles drawn to the smell, the female flowers then close up & the male flowers start producing pollen, unaccompanied by stench. In this case, according to the BBG's blog, the stink started about 8 pm, and was mostly gone by the time the gates opened at 8 am on Friday. By the time I got there, later in the day on Saturday, it was long since gone (which is why I think the whiff I thought I got may have been my imagination).

He also explained why there was a little window cut into the back of the thing - this was what they had to do to collect the pollen from the male flowers. Botanical gardens work very closely together to propagate unique plants like this - in fact they've attempted to pollinate Baby with pollen from the Titan Arum that just bloomed at Virginia Tech, so if we're lucky the next event at the BBG may be to go see the fruit - that also looks pretty fascinating. The BBG will in turn store their pollen ready to send off to whoever is lucky enough to be the next owner of a blooming corpse flower. Oh, and that word "inflorescence" I keep using? Well, this is not really a flower, but an entire structure with lots of flowerets down inside that sheath - you can see the flowers through that little window, before they patched it back up again, on that selfsame blog as I mentioned before (worth a link, worth a read - they go into SO much more detail than I can even begin to).

And in the meantime - well, even without a corpse flower to see (or smell), the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is still a wonderful place to spend a summer day. Just ask the locals!

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