Posted tagged ‘blooming’

THE BOTANY OF EXPIRE

June 15, 2011

The support structure for the gigantic flower of Amorphophallus titanum–an elegant example of plant architecture

Life goes to all lengths to get sex; after all, without sex, we have no birds, bees, or babies. But some sex is just plain weird, as in the case of the Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum). Think about the root meaning of those Latin words for a moment, and you will understand why Sir David Attenborough came up with the less “dirty” name of Titan Arum to use in his BBS television series, The Secret Life of Plants, instead of the scientific name.

Corpse Flower is a gigantic botanical simulation of rotting meat, complete with a fetid odor and a deep burgundy color to help create the illusion. It even raises its own temperature to make the illusion of decomposing meat more real. And who is it trying to attract with all this grossness? Why, carrion beetles and flesh flies, of course, which are its pollinators! Everything it does, it does for sex–kind of like some politicians who make the news, but we won’t go there …

Impressive in size, the Corpse Flower blooms only occasionally through the years, and sports the color, temperature, and fetid smell of a large rotting animal

I went to the University of Washington botany greenhouses in Seattle, after seeing a story in the Seattle Times about how this plant was about to bloom. On that afternoon of June 9, I joined about 60 people in line to wait for our chance to file past the magnificent plant and experience its sensory pleasures. Alas, my sense of smell is not working well because of seasonal allergies, so I couldn’t smell a thing. It’s just as well, based on some of the descriptions of the gag-inducing stink, which is said to be so bad that it can make a person’s eyes water.

Anyway, the plant was gigantic and most impressive; those of us who stood in line were rewarded with the chance to climb a ladder and look down inside the flower. The cutest among us were also rewarded with having pictures taken by a media photographer (he didn’t bother with me).

Climbing a ladder to view the Corpse Flower’s interior

Corpse Flower lives naturally in the Sumatra rainforest, but it has relatives here in North America, including Calla Lily and Skunk Cabbage. The Eastern Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), which grows in swamps in places I’ve lived, including Michigan and New York, also has a meat color, strong odor, and the ability to generate heat–which helps it melt snow in early spring, AND to spread its wondrous odor better.

Now the flowering event is over, and it is time to patiently wait for that 100+ lb. root to decide that it’s time once again to surprise us with a magnificent bloom. It might happen in a couple of years, or perhaps in a human lifetime. Nobody knows, and that is part of the wonder of its nature.

University of Washington botany greenhouse, with the Corpse Flower visible inside

Virtually everyone took a picture of the gigantic flower

Wikipedia has a good article about the natural history of this amazing plant; go to: Corpse Flower.

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website

EYE CANDY: The Natchez Trace Parkway

April 20, 2010

Redbud and zig-zag fence along Natchez Trace Parkway

Stretching 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, the Natchez Trace Parkway follows the path of a centuries-old foot trail. Moccasins and boots trod this path for centuries, and it later became one of our first national scenic parkways. In the depths of the Great Depression, Congress authorized the parkway as a public works project. The National Park Service later became the agency in charge of the road, and they’ve done a fine job of maintaining one of the most beautiful roads in America.

The Redbuds in this photo essay burnish the Tennessee portion of the parkway. Here the road curves gracefully through the hills, as if destined to be there. During my brief mid-April visit, spring was at its peak; emerging oak leaves mingled with the Redbuds and Flowering Dogwoods to create a lovely pastel landscape … that would be described as “eye candy” by those who think themselves too sophisticated to enjoy the splendors of nature. As for me, I never tire of such sights.

Redbud at the edge of the forest

Traditional split rail fences zig-zag along the parkway

Redbud and Flowering Dogwood intermingle in a haze of blossoms

Is anything more beautiful than a Redbud in spring?

Backlit by the morning sun

Redbud is in the pea family, and is inconspicuous the rest of the year

Redbud is my favorite flowering tree, in case you hadn’t guessed!

For more information about driving the Natchez Trace Parkway, start with the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm.

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com. To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website.


SEATTLE’S ARBORETUM: Pretty in Pink

March 16, 2010

Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Spring continues in the Puget Sound region, with wave after wave of blooming flowers coloring the warming days.  Lately, the wind-pollinated tree flowers of alder are spreading their evil fairy dust over the region, causing congestion in me and many others.  At night, the Pacific Treefrogs tweet from the wetlands across our lake, sending brief messages of love using the broadband of damp air.  Indian Plum and the gorgeous Red-flowering Current are the natives now blooming on our property.  The first pair of Wood Ducks in love showed up for their rite of spring today, and in a couple of months we should see their babies jumping from a nest box along the lake.

Home is where my heart is, but Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum is where most of the flowers are, so I journeyed there on a recent warm spring day.  I’ll let the pictures speak for the plants, but I should say that this was the day of the magnolias for me, with magnolia buds and blossoms and fallen petals creating a beautiful backdrop of pink so achingly lovely that it almost made me question my masculinity.  But not quite.

Fallen Camellia Petals

A rustic staircase ascends a ferny hill

Fallen Pink Magnolia blossoms, Magnolia mollicomata X M. Campbellii

Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’

Fallen petal of Pink Magnolia (Magnolia mollicomata X M. Campbellii)

Magnolia Flower Bud (variety unknown)

Lookout Gazebo at the Washington Park Arboretum

Looking out of the Lookout Gazebo

Bark of Paperbark Cherry, Prunus serrula

Emerging fern fiddleheads

Burls on an ancient tree

Redwood Sorrel, Oxalis oregana

Opening leaf buds of Tibetan Peony, Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii

And now for a special surprise:  an orange traffic cone reflected in wet pavement within the Washington Park Arboretum

Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’

Magnolia ‘Raspberry Ice’ flower bud

Fern Fiddlehead

Indian Plum, Oemieria cerasiformis, a native shrub of the Pacific Coast

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick with Royal Star Magnolia

Skeletal remains of a leaf of Pink Magnolia (Magnolia mollicomata X M. Campbellii)

Lenten Rose, Helleborus x hybridus

Cherry blossoms and buds

Graceful shapes in the bark of Snow Gum, Eucalyptus pauciflora, an Australian native

Camellia (Camellia sp.) blooming

For more information about Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum, go to: http://depts.washington.edu/wpa/index.htm I also have an earlier story about the Arboretum at https://leerentz.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/spring-in-seattle/

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website