3/15/2010

Stinky Flowers

My friend, Olee, and I, drove to Springfield (MO) to view the rare carrion flower. The bulb was bought on eBay by Dr. Roston, who was on hand to answer questions about this fanciful plant. The viewing was at the Nataniel Green Park, which is in the Close Memorial Park, future home of the Springfield Botanic Garden (boy do they need better naming for their location...just try and find it on your Garmin navigator!) Over the weekend, there had been a few thousand people filing past the flower.

Dr. Roston said this was the second carrion flower to bloom in Missouri, and only the 11th in the U.S. He said there was no way to know in advance, whether this was a male or a female flower. If it was a male, all he would have gotten would have been a 4 ft tall green, tropical plant. But the bulb produced a flower, the female of the species, which is what everyone wants to see.

Carrion flowers (Amorphophallus titanium, translated means, misshapen penis) are native to the island of Sumatra, and have become rare there thanks to land clearing for development). The smell, as the plant opens for its one day debut, comes out in repeating puffs of steam, which can be seen with lights and film, but not noticed by the naked eye. The insect that pollinates the carrion flower is a type of dung beetle. The flower, which can reach 8 or more feet in height, uses its height, and the intermittent steam, caught by breezes, to let the dung beetle know the flower is ready for pollination. Once the bloom is pollinated, the flower wilts within hours and dies back to the bulb. The stench - sometimes described as a smell between that of a large, dead rat, and a dead donkey, also goes away. Unfortunately, the right kind of dung beetles aren't found in the U.S., so pollination is either by hand, or it doesn't happen..

So just why would a few thousand people stand in lines to see a stinking plant that virtually takes your breath away? Because it is so rare, and so beautiful. Up close it looked like beautiful glass sculptures I've seen in art galleries. The coloring is brilliant emerald green, to hot-out-of-the-oven-brownies-brown, with shades of ivory, ruby red and tan, mixed. It was a beautiful flower and didn't stink much when we were there. As the bulb ages and blooms again in a few years, the flower will be larger next time, like the one shown at right..

The other exciting event over the weekend, which had little to do with gardens or plants, was our Friday night dinner group got together on Sunday, for Bagel-fest. One in our group, June, is expert at making honest to goodness New York bagels and she built an entire dinner around hot, fresh bagels. Once you eat a homemade bagel, you can never again eat one of the cardboard tasting ones from the deli or grocery store. There is just no comparison.

Bagels are one of those foods that appear too complicated to actually make at home, as if the only source was some sort of giant, commercial machine. In actuality, they're fairly easy - or they look easy; I know for a fact it takes practice and years of experience to get them right. But the basic method is to make a dough and let it rise,  much like making bread. Then you roll it out on a board to about 3/4 inch thick, cut the dough with a doughnut cutter and let them rise briefly. Those are dropped into boiling water, which makes the dough puff up to more than double in size. Once they're lifted out of the boiling water, the raw bagels are brushed with an egg mixture, then seeds and seasoning are scattered over the top. June's husband, Steve (wearing the bunny ears), likes a mixture of black pepper, onion, salt and dried, red chilies, but the traditional topping is either poppy seed or a mixture of sesame seeds and dried onion flakes. Then the bagels go into a hot oven and to bake for 10 minutes until they're golden brown.

June and Steve served lox that June had brought from a Jewish deli in NY, along with cream cheeses, tomatoes, fish and other toppings. It was a feast and a fine time was had by all.


Speaking of poppy seed, it's time to get the last of mine planted in the ground. I ordered several colors from Baker Creek Seed, including some double pinks, almost black-red and some bread poppies (just to see how they look different from regular poppies). There's more information about poppies on my Columns blog.


A reliable vehicle is part of my business and garden. It's how I haul plants and soil amendments. It's the way I get to garden lectures I give around the country, and what I use to drag around my "book and herb show" when I travel So this week I upgraded my transportation (and for those of you who've followed my trip to Florida, never getting much beyond the ice storm in Memphis) here's the result. I made a new acquaintance, Taurean, a musician turned salesman, at Reliable Toyota. Here he is, standing next to my new truck. He didn't pressure me, listened to what I was looking for, and the call from his herb-interested mother, was a nice touch. I told him he should have his mother always call his customers and finalize the deal. I'm not sure which actually sealed the deal, his mother's phone call, or the fact my new truck is BLUE!

Happy gardening!

5 comments:

Steven Anthony said...

it actually looks like the plant from little shop of horrors..crazy;)

as always, love your blog

mas said...

Hey Jim, those bagels sure looked delicious. I got to see the plant at the garden show in springfield but I didn't have my camera. It looked fantastic. I like the new truck. You have a lot more room now with that extended cab. With all those trucks you have you can start a used car lot.

Kim said...

I live just south of you in Harrison-- I cannot believe there was a carrion flower blooming that close to me and I didn't know it! I really need to join a couple of organizations or something so that I know about this kind of stuff. Thanks for the pictures. And congrats on the new vehicle!

Lindy said...

Just catching up on your blog having been in northern MI for an incredible week.

Blue really does make the very best color for almost everything:)

That meal made my mouth water :-D

Lindy

Jim Long said...

Kim, I get my news from Public Radio. Both Morning Edition and All Things Considered did segments on the carrion flower. I listen to 90.1 FM, which is MO State Univ at Springfield, with a translator at College of the Ozarks outside Branson. Best source I know of for unbiased national and local news. Thanks for your comment!