Corpse Flower blooms in the US Botanical Garden #stinky



The U.S. Botanic Garden last displayed a corpse flower bloom in 2013. Learn more about the 2013 bloom

The corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum), also known as the stinky plant, is blooming at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory. It is the first bloom of this particular plant, which is six years old. It takes quite a while to create enough energy for a bloom as spectacular as this one!

The plant went on view to the public Friday, July 22, and peak bloom is currently underway. The bloom began opening early Tuesday morning. The Conservatory will stay open until 11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

The magic of the titan arum comes from its great size – it is largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom. When it went on display, the plant was around 3.5 feet tall. Referred to as the corpse flower or stinky plant, its putrid smell is most potent during peak bloom at night into the early morning. The odor is often compared to the stench of rotting flesh. The inflorescence also generates heat, which allows the stench to travel further. This combination of heat and smell efficiently attracts pollinators, such as carrion beetles and flies, from across long distances.

The titan arum does not have an annual blooming cycle. The titan arum emerges from, and stores energy in, a huge underground stem called a “corm.” The plant blooms only when sufficient energy is accumulated,making time between flowering unpredictable, spanning from a few years to more than a decade. It requires very special conditions, including warm day and night temperatures and high humidity, making botanic gardens well suited to support this strange plant outside of its natural range.

This plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, and first became known to science in 1878. In its natural habitat, the titan arum can grow up to 12 feet tall. Public viewings of this unique plant have occurred a limited number of times in the United States. The U.S. Botanic Garden previously displayed blooming titan arums in 2003, 2005 and 2007, 2010, and 2013.


Ketchup ‘n Fries plant!

Here’s a sweet two-for-one deal for gardeners: A single plant that grows both tomatoes and potatoes.  Dubbed the “Ketchup ‘n fries” plant (I would have gone for pomatoes or totatoes, personally), this isn’t a genetically modified organism but a plant of two different nightshades: the top of a cherry tomato grafted on to a white potato.

Check out the full story on NPR.


Art meets science meets science fiction with tree of 40 fruit! #SamVanAken

Check out this awesome Tedx talk by artist/scientist Sam Van Aken. He describes in detail how he sculpts stone fruit trees that produce 40 different fruits through use of grafting (background from wikipedia). They also produce unique and beautiful flowering patterns. Very cool use of grafting for science, art, and food! Check out Sam’s website! 



History of science: plants used to treat disease based on appearance #wrong

simonEver wonder about how we figured out that some plants can treat certain disease conditions? For example, that the foxglove contains a compound that can treat heart issues (wiki post on digoxin here). Well, Matt Simon has written a terrific piece for that explains why some of the plant medicines we use, and a lot of the plant medicines we don’t use, were first tested. It is based on using plants that resemble an organ to treat problems with that organ.

Such thinking, known as the doctrine of signatures, actually developed with remarkable frequency all around the world from culture to culture. Plants meant to heal certain organs and body parts, like the liver or the eye, must show a certain “signature” by resembling the thing they treat.

Check out Simon’s article for a fun history lesson about some early science of medicine! Turns out that the doctrine of signatures was’t such a good one.