August 24, 2014

Photo Essay: The Blooming, Stinking Corpse Flower (and Other Delights) at Huntington Gardens

I feel like the entire time in New York, all the public crazes had to do with some concert or bar or club or party or maybe art opening or burger stand.

Maybe I'm just in a different place in my life, but since moving to California, I've been getting excited instead over giant boulders and rubber duckies and weird light and color experiences, not to mention the space shuttle and strange blooming plants. (I look forward to the upcoming Downtown water slide as well.)

Years ago, I once stood in line for hours in the rain for concert tickets to see Billy Idol at The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village. Now I get up early to drive to the San Gabriel Valley to get a whiff of a rotten-smelling flower that only blooms (and stinks) for a few hours.

I had enough foresight to arrive to Huntington Gardens early this morning – before their advertised public open hours – so, without having to wait in line, I got to see the staff stick a camera down into the "Corpse Flower" bloom to witness the tiny, hidden female parts (the stigma)...

...which they were about to manually pollinate by cutting a rectangular window in the side of the bottom of the plant.

I also got there just in time (before the line really started to form), since the Amorphophallus titanium had already reached its peak bloom sometime around midnight...

...and was already starting to close up again.

It's called the "Corpse Flower" because of its alleged "rotting" smell...

...which certainly is pungent and nauseating, but somewhat indescribable. It didn't smell like any carcass I've ever encountered, lacking the meaty, fatty, gamey quality of an animal.

It is not particularly beautiful, and certainly not fragrant, but it is imposing and tremendous, and demands respect.

I was happy to have an excuse to return to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanic Gardens...

Erepsia heteropetala (South Africa)

...which has enough American and European paintings, sculpture, and furniture in their art galleries...

Mammillaria geminispina (Mexico) well as manuscripts, prints, and photographs in its library collection...

Echinocereus viereckii (Mexico) keep you busy all day.

During my first (and only other) visit four years ago, I found the whole thing too overwhelming...

...and, instead of trying to do it all, focused on exploring the Huntington's fabulous botanic garden...

...particularly their desert garden.

I hadn't posted most of my photos from back then...

...but today's visit reminded me of its beauty...

...and intriguing microcosm of biodiversity.

Aeonium tabuliforme

Aeonium arboreum

Aeonium arboreum

The butterflies were still fluttering on this late summer afternoon, today... they probably do all year, as there is always something blooming in the gardens of Southern California, all year long, under the unrelenting sun.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Beware the World's Largest Flowering Plant
Photo Essay: Moorten Botanical Garden, Palm Springs
Where Does My Garden Grow?

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