Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Corpse Plant

The Corpse Flower

Amorphophallus titanum

Family: Araceae

Ah, The Corpse Plant also called The Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum is the mother of all stinky arums. Often referred to as the Titan Arum, this plant is probably the ultimate Lovely Lily of Death (note: it is not actually a lily.) This plant is ENORMOUS! The leaf can grow up to twenty feet tall and wide, and the flower can grow to be up to nine feet tall. Like its distant cousins, the Voodoo Lily and the Black Calla, the Corpse Plant produces leaves every year but flowers less frequently. Usually it takes seven or so years of producing leaves, sucking up enough energy into the tuber to produce the massive inflorescence (which is actually a many smaller flowers stacked up to make the “one” bloom.)

The most distinguishing feature of the Titan Arum is its distinctive smell. When at last mature enough to produce a full fetid bloom beware! This thing smells like a rotting corpse. Probably more like a rotting carcass, like that of a dead whale or seal on a beach, than an actual human corpse, its foul smell also attracts visitors to whatever botanical garden is hosting the stink-party. I was a docent at the Conservatory of Flowers back  in 2005 when Ted the Titan, on loan from the UC Davis Botanical Gardens, bloomed in all its funky glory. People were lined up out the door of the Victorian conservatory just to get a glimpse, or in this case, a whiff. It is truly a sight to behold.

The flower looks like a giant version of the Voodoo or Vampire lily, with a massive spadix jutting out of its delicately ruffled outer petals. It has a blood-red interior and a green outer layer, often streaked with color like dripping blood!

The cultivation of such a plant is only recommended for individuals with very strong stomachs, decent biceps and good backs,  who are also in possession of a very, very large hothouse. It is native to Sumatra and does not like cold temperatures. The tuber alone on a mature plant can be over forty pounds!

Culture~

Height to 20 ft. (Flower to 9 ft.)

Requires warm temperatures, extremely high humidity. Even when dormant, do not expose to temperatures lower than 59 degrees.

This is Ted the Titan from the 2005 bloom at the SF Conservatory of Flowers.

Please note I did not take this photo though this is the same Corpse Flower I was lucky enough to spend time with. I got it from this guys website. He has tons of great photos and I hope he doesn’t mind that I snagged this. Full credit to: http://www.pbase.com/mtpuff/ted

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Vampire Lily

Vampire Lily

Dracunculus vulgaris

Family: Araceae

No rotten garden is complete without the beloved Vampire LilyDracunculus vulgaris. Also called the Dragon Arum, it is in the Araceae family along with the Black Calla, and sports one of the finest botanical names in the whole rotten world! Similar in appearance to the Black Calla and more so, the Voodoo Lily, the Vampire Lily produces multiple green stems that appeart to be splattered with blood. Its flower is a deep dark red and has a ruffled edge, and the spadix is long, blackish purple, and totally evil. Not unlike its Voodoo cousin its fading flower emits a smell like that of rotting flesh, designed to attract flies and carrion beetles that pollinate it.

Culture~

Height: 14”-20”

Hardiness: to 25º

Full sun in mild climates, partial shade in hotter climates.  Regular water, mulch only in coldest climates. Thrives on neglect. Do not over fertilize. Native to Mediterranean Europe.

Took this picture from Listverse's top 10 Coolest Plants

Note that I do own several Vampire Lillies, planted inside a giant blood red pot, but they are not in bloom right now (it is January!) so I took a picture from this link: http://listverse.com/2007/11/30/top-10-coolest-plants/
Which happens to have some other super cool plants that I love, like the Corpse Plant. I will get into that later.
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The Voodoo Lily

Sauromatum venosum 

Oh the things that grow in the dank earth, the things that thrive on rain and shadows and neglect. The Voodoo Lily,  sometimes identified as S. venosum (although there are other species of Amorphophallus that are called Voodoo Lillies) seems like something you’d find growing at the Crossroads. With a speckled, bloody red flower, and the foul smell of a corpse when in full-bloom, the Voodoo Lily certainly seems to belong to the world of swamps and curses and spells. This zombie-scented flower’s disgusting aroma is used to attract flies and beetles as its pollinators. The Voodoo Lily’s flower forms similarly to the Black Calla and Vampire Lily, with a tall central spike, or spadix, surrounded by the spathe. For the Voodoo Lily, the spadix is the richest of reds, and the spathe is a vibrant red spotted with deep burgundy. Especially enchanting even when not in bloom, the Voodoo Lily’s speckled leaf spikes appear after the single flower has come and gone, shooting up and branching out to look like miniature gothic tropical trees, green and smattered with blood red spots at the base. Bizarre, enchanting, and gorgeously ghastly!

Culture-

Height: 14”-20”

Hardiness: to 25º

Prefers partial shade, regular water during growth period. Stop watering after bloom for several weks. Allow to die back, then, if growing in pot leave pot out in the rain. Thrives on gloomy sweet rain. Native to tropical Africa and Asia.

This is not my lily, but the same kind. I got this from http://www.ruralramblings.com. I hope they don't mind!

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The Lovely Lilies of Death

The Lovely Lilies of Death! Who knew you could grow such novelties as Black Callas, Vampire Liles, Voodoo Liles, and more? The Rotten Botanist, that’s who! This week, Rotten Botany is “dead”icated to some of my all time favorite flowers–what I call the lovely lilies of death. Today, we begin with The Black Calla.

The Black Calla Lily

Botanical Name: Arum palaestinum

Family: Tracheae

You know those classic funereal flowers so often draped across a coffin or propped up in the corner of the parlor room during a wake? They are white with a yellow spike in the center, and if you grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area they very likely grew in your back yard. That would be the classic white Calla Lily,  Zantedeschia aethiopica. The Black Calla Lily, Arum palaestinum, is not a true Calla Lily though they are both members of the same greater family, Araceae. The Black Calla’s spathe is terribly special! Usually it has a greenish exterior that unfurl to reveal a the deep maroon color of the flower with an intensely black spike (spadix) thrusting out of the middle. with a tapered tip that dangles behind it like a tail.  In milder climates, like the one I live in, this plant can can be grown outdoors. Like its distant cousin the white calla, it thrives in sandy soil and can be planted in the shade to partial shade. In climates with a colder snap in the winter it is better suited to be a hot-house or houseplant. But be cautious. Like many of its morbid cousins, there is a faint fetid odor that is emitted when this plant is in full bloom. This is thought to attract its pollinators, usually flies and gnats.

Culture~

Height: Grows from 18-24”.

Hardiness: to 25 º

Light shade, regular water, mildly acidic soil.  Quite likes neglect.

Original native of the Middle East

You can keep it in a pot for a long time, just remember that it dies back completely and loves the rain, so mark the pot well and set it out somewhere it will absorb rain for the winter. Don’t let the “empty” pot fool you! Mine produced only leaves for several years and then bammo! One year in mid-April it bloomed in all its glory.

My Black Calla in bloom!


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Rotten Botany

Welcome to the dark side of gardening–Rotten Botany. Here you will find plants of the unusual variety–dark flowering, black leaves, poisonous, magical, monstrous–all have a home in my garden. You will find lore and tales of terror along with botanical care and feeding. From carnivorous plants to cataclysmic odoriferous Callas, Rotten Botany seeks to introduce the simply sinister and fully fetid floras in the known universe. Remember, what doesn’t kill you makes your garden grow stronger.

Arum palaestinum
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