Friday, May 30, 2008

Arum Dracunculus

I'm a sucker for weird looking plants. Add a name like 'dracunculus' which means 'dragon' and I'm filling in the order blank.


The three innocent-looking bulbs were cheap (I now realize that means the plant self-propagates wildly) and I planted them near the entryway, the better to enjoy their exotic blooms. They did not disappoint -- chartreuse and deep purple buds unfurled into a vast spathe the color of raw liver. And the spadix - the pointy thing in the middle -- well, it was pretty impressive. The plant was immediately re-named, vividly and alliteratively, for a part of a dog's anatomy.

"What's that smell?" we said, when the sun hit the newly opened flowers. "The dogs must have brought home something dead."

We followed our noses to the arum dracunculus to discover the source of the awful odor. This plant (there are others) chooses to be pollinated by flies, rather than bees or butterflies, and so, rather than smelling like honey, it smells like carrion. (The bulb nursery I ordered it from didn't mention that part.)

My husband suggested gently that I get rid of the plant or at least move it away from the house -- far away. And that was the beginning of my Creepy Garden -- more on that tomorrow.

Among arum dracunculus's common names, I have discovered, are Voodoo Lily, Snake Lily, and Stink Lily. All quite good and descriptive. But it'll always be the Dog Dick plant to us.
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12 comments:

Pat in TN said...

I have to admit I learned something new today, although maybe a little toooo much concerning this plant, BUT I also got a good laugh out of it!!!

I can hardly wait to hear about your 'Creepy Garden' ... sounds very interesting.

Vicki Lane said...

Hey, you gotta love a plant like this!

Mayland Writers' Group said...
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Susan said...
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Susan said...

Just had a bit of my yard cleared after having let the wild roses and such take over for so many years. I may have to look into getting one of those plants now that I have space far enough away from the house. I love weird things like that. Ever hear about the corpse plant that blooms once every 5 years? (Some even less.) Smells like rancid meat. Your plant reminds me of that, except the bloom of the corpse plant can grow up to 12 feet tall. That would be some yard decoration. ;-)

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, yes -- Titan Arum, a big BIG brother to Arum Dracunculus. To see a great picture of one, go to http://www.bookofjoe.com/2005/11/giant_corpse_fl.html

Now there's a flower!

Tammy said...

I had a similar experience with an indoor cactus plant (I don't know what kind it is). One year it filled itself with lovely exotic looking little blooms. I was beside myself with excitement! One of my cacti were blooming! Then the strange gagging smell started. The search was on for a dead mouse. After quite a bit of fruitless searching, my nose traced it back to the cactus. UGH. Never again have I been excited to see that particular plant put on blooms. :-)
Tammy

Vicki Lane said...

Indoors -- now that's tough. But I still think it's rather wonderful that plants, when the competition for pollenators is fierce, will attract flies.

Susan said...

An interesting quirk of nature, isn't it...attracting flies. Reminds me of what Jeff Goldblum's character said in Jurassic Park, "Nature finds a way."

Vicki Lane said...

Yes, she does indeed!

cammilla said...

okay, it's waaay past midnight and I just looked at your email with the ugly plant and your creative renaming of it and laughed so loud that i woke up my husband! i suppose i didn't expect it, but i loved it! thanks! and I loved the book, too. in fact, i've loved them all. keep up the good work, and for pete's sake, write faster.

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, thank you! Wish I could write faster but sometimes one has to take time to smell the arum dracunculus. (Ugly?)