Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I’m the biggest stink!

While checking the now mostly dormant bulbs in the protected cold frame the other day, I caught a whiff of putrescence. The only aroid blooming in the frame at that time was Arum byzantinum, so that was ruled out as a source. A dead animal seemed likely, so I began to hunt around. Then I remembered that the Dracunculus on the side of the house was about to bloom. I checked the dragon arum, and sure enough it was in odoriferous, reeking bloom. But that was not what I was smelling.

There was at least one other likely possibility, the Voodoo lily Sauromatum ( or if you prefer Typhonium). These, too, are starting to bloom around the garden. Their scent varies – typically it reminds me more of rat feces than anything else. But that was not what I was smelling.

Then I remembered something else, something which has not bloomed in the garden for years. Around the corner from the protected cold frame, under the Rhapidophyllum, in the shade of the Noisette roses and Smilax smallii, for years a plant of Amorphophallus konjac has appeared yearly without blooming. I took a look and sure enough, there it was, a chalky, brownish maroon spadix projecting up from the liver and maroon frill of the spathe. There it was, pumping out its particular stench.

The Dracunculus and the Amorphophallus grow against the same wall of the house, separated by maybe twenty feet. It was as if these two were competing with one another to see which could be the smelliest. And that’s when I had this hilarious thought: they reminded me of the two prime donne in Mozart’s opera Der Schauspieldirektor: only this time the performers were singing “I’m the biggest stink” “No, I’m the biggest stink”, “No, surely I’m the biggest stink” and so on.

I’m letting the flies decide this one.
In the images above, the upper image is that of Dracunculus vulgaris and the lower image is that of Amorphophallus konjac.

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