Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Voodoo in The 'Ville

There is not one plant that I don't like or can at least appreciate no matter how ordinary or unusual, weedy or weird, or aromatically repulsive. Some species are an aquired taste to say the least. But if we can look past what we consider a negative trait, we may appreciate how plants have developed their own unique stratagies for thriving in environments we wouldn't last two seconds in, much less reproduce our own species.
Some plants, however, are truly an aquired taste, asking us not to simply stretch past our comfort zone, but to leap with abandon into weirdness. One such species is the Voodoo Lily, know botanically as amorophaphallus. What makes this a standout in strange, primarily is it's odor. It's not called a corpse flower for nothing. Believe me. And if you don't, just ask my neighbors. Well, maybe you had better not stir up a stink.
I thought I'd share my upcoming article (slightly tailored) in the Louisville Area Iris Society's newsletter to go into all the gruesome details. And I encourage folks to look around on the web for photos. Descriptions alone just don't do this amazing species justice. You won't be disappointed if you like a truly unusual plant.

Off The Garden Path

"A Bloom With A Phew!"
Amorphaphallus konjac, sauromatum venosum, dracanulus vulgaris: these are just a few names only a mother could love. But once you see these plants, their monikers only add to their appeal. Commonly known as Voodo Lilies, these members of the araceae family(aroids) will knock your socks off (or it may just smell like it) with their appearance, keep unwanted snoops out of your yard with their noxious odor- the smell of rotting flesh- although they may attract a vulture or two. But hey, consider it your own personal wild kingdom.. Not to worry though, the odor lasts only a few days, while the blooms endures for a week or so, much longer in some cultivars.
And later in the season, when they re-emerge, some, like paeoniifolius, can produce the most unique foliage.
The stalk looks like lizard skin- stippled and splotched green, maroon and cream. I have a bulb that weighs nearly five pounds and produce foliage nearly five feet tall, spanned four feet. I could have sat underneath and dodged raindrops.
There are many varieties of amorphaphallus, most, easy to care for, some hardy to zone five.
Wikipedia and Dave's Garden are good places to start for info and photos. Search the web for prices, availability, ect. Some varieties, such as dracanulus vulgaris and konjac are not expensive, while other more hard to find bulbs will leave you mooching meals off your mama for a while.
Like most arums, many Voodoo lilies prefer shade/pt sun, not too wet or too dry. Be sure to get specifics on care, as some Southeast Asia and have different bloom times, needs, ect. I strongly advise you plant them away from windows and walkways, unless you have a pesky neighbor. Revenge isn't always sweet smelling. 'Scuse for a moment folks-"what's that? Oh, allright." The editor has just informed me to tell you that the sentiments of this article do not reflect those of The Iris Fan and are in no way intended as encouragement to the aforementioned behavior of the author. Party pooper. Moving along then.
Did you know that the tallest flower on earth is a stinker? Amorphaphallus titanum to be exact. It spikes over ten feet tall, the foliage reaching twenty feet into the sky, spanning sixteen feet across. Now that's a garden plant, maybe the ONLY plant in your garden. Now get this, the heaviest bulb recorded, at Kew Gardens in England, busted the scales at 200 pounds. I doubt if it worried whether or not its ass was fat. Just saying.
So, please do have a look around at this fascinating species. As I said, they aren't for everyone, but all who see them are guaranteed to be left shocked and amazed.
Smell ya later.

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