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.
It will be six whole months of more darkness than light. Autumn in Portland seems to have come all at once. We went from desiccating heat and thick smoke to cool rain and clouds all in a day. I’m sure that warm weather will return before winter sets in, but storm was welcome relief.
The change of seasons seems like a good time to restart the Photo Of the Day blog. I’ll also be migrating the ten years of blog entries into this new web site. Many of the old posts have already been republished by Summer, my wife. Summer also designed this site. See more of her work here.