Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Putrella Flower at the Muttart Conservatory

In late spring we had a strange, yet fascinating event happen in Edmonton. The Muttart Conservatory hosted it's own form of celebrity as its Amorphophallus Titanium or "Putrella" came to full bloom.

"Native to Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia, Putrella was acquired by the conservatory and arrived in Edmonton in August on a flight from Boston. Detained by suspicious inspectors, the 275-pound tuber was eventually hauled away to the Muttart, where employees used a forklift to hoist it out of a truck and place it in a greenhouse."*

The flower is famous or infamous for two major reasons. The large and quick phallic growth which produces the largest inflorescence (flower on a stem) of any plant and it's horrible florid smell which has given it the colloquial name of the 'carrion' or 'corpse' flower.

The fragrance of putrella is similar that of a rotting mammal which attracts carrion eating beetles and flies that pollinate the plant. Additionally the deep color of the bloom and temperature of the spike approximates that of a freshly killed piece of meat. Delicious.

Now if you're asking yourself who the hell wants to see a flower that smells like death? - The answer is a lot of people. I had been following the plants progress on facebook and when it finally bloomed I convinced Christina to go visit the Muttart with me. Unfortunately, a few hundred people had already beat me to it and were lined up well outside the building waiting to see it.

Scared that I would miss the big event I took my lunch break very early the next day and got into see putrella hours into the second day of its bloom.

The smell by this time wasn't as overwhelming as I expected, I think the natural aeration and being in its second day lessened the smell to mostly a musky, dirty scent.

On a pure sensory input level it's an impressive plant to say the least. However, I have to admit that to me the most impressive aspect of the plant is it's wild growth cycle. Taken from the Muttart Conservatory's facebook page I have made the following GIF to show you it's crazy progress from March 13th when a bud first appeared above the dirt to about 8 feet just a month later on its bloom date of April 20th and the eventual sag of April 28th.

Muttart Conservatory Putrella

I am thankful that the Muttart had the foresight to invest in this special plant and I hope that the extra attention they received and the hopefully successful 'harvesting' of the flower lead to them bringing more exotic and interesting plants to Edmonton.
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