Over the weekend fellow photographer Ward Shortridge died at the age of 59.
I will forever be glad that I got to know Ward. He was thoughtful and humorous, and a perfectionist when it came to his craft. Through this past year he was working on new series which only reinforced my belief that Ward was one of the best photographers I’ve ever known.
A long time ago, (1993 I think) in Billings, Montana, I came upon this industrial scene. Raising my camera, I fired the shutter one time before I heard a stern voice behind me.
“Hey, you can’t take pictures here!” said the security guard. I said “ok.” He asked how many photos I took. I said “just one.” I could see he figuring if it was worth trying to get my film from me. Finally he said “well, if it was only one…” I turned on my bicycle and pedaled away.
If it wasn’t for the employee on bicycle this photo would be nothing.
This past summer those people in the Portland Oregon / Vancouver, Washington area got a rare treat. Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences Steve Sylvester had been nurturing this tropical plant in a greenhouse at Washington State University’s Vancouver campus.
Professor Sylvester had originally planted Titan VanCoug in 2002. Usually these plant grow for 7 to 10 years before blooming. This one has been maturing for 17 years.
The blossom is on the small side at just over four feet tall. Short-lived, the flowers wither after about 48 hours. This one was already on the old side when I saw it — you can see the top of the stamen starting to shrivel.
Corpse Flowers are so named because of their feted odor, reminiscent of rotting flesh. This miasma attracts flies which pollinate the plant so that the blossom can produce seeds.
A long cue of people from all over the region waited to see this rare sight. It is estimated that only five or so corpse flowers are in bloom at any given time in the world. After their first flowering, it generally takes four or more years before another bloom.
Titan VanCoug is a name of affection given to this particular plant by Prof. Sylvester. The scientific name for the species is Amorphophallus titanum.