Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dissecting the Corpse Flower



The corpse flower, a rare and infamous plant from Sumatra that blooms occasionally, like every 7 years, and when it opens, for the magic of 6 – 8 hours, mostly at night, it emits the most horrendous smell. The smell of death that attracts carrion beetles and flesh flies so that pollination occurs.

The build up to this event was on par with the Chicago Fire Festival that took place downtown last year which resulted in millions of visitors clogging the riverfront on a cold night to watch papier mache floating houses ignite. Except they didn’t. The whole thing was a dud.

Poor Spike fell victim to its own media hype. He, she, it, refused to open. The natural signs leading up to the phenomena were all there, the anticipation was grounded in science, but perhaps conditions were not right. Anyway, Sunday morning the botanists knew something was amiss and cut her open to peel away the leave and reveal the maroon-colored spathe. These leaves were accordion pleated like a beautiful vintage dress.

I happened to be one of the lucky visitors that got to see Spike, undressed and naked before the adoring crowds. I needed to get in a long bike ride and from my house to the Chicago Botanical Gardens near the Lake/Cook line round-trip is about 55 miles. I say lucky because even though I signed up for an e-mail notification I never received news about the intervention. I stood in line with members who said they didn’t know either but had just dropped by. They had been visiting Spike for a week just in case.

web can, recorded images

story behind the story

Because she was still-born there was no actual smell. We might have to wait another 7 years for the next flowering. There is poetry here, somewhere.

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