Friday, July 25, 2003

Amorphophallus Titanum

With any luck we'll write a longer post later on, but this anecdote is pretty funny so I'll relate it now.

Remember yesterday I wrote that we went to the Capitol "via the Botanic Gardens, accidentally..."? Well, in truth we were looking for the ticket booth for the Capitol building, so we went to the right block, saw a long queue and joined it, assuming that everyone was queuing for tour tickets.

As the queue advanced, we realised that we were in fact waiting for entry to the Botanic Garden Conservatory, and that the Capitol booth was across the street. We were fairly close to the entrance, so we decided we might as well pop in for a look: we zoomed round the 'jungle' section, noticing a huge, odd-looking flower on the way out that lots of people seemed to be peering at and photographing. Feeling somewhat silly for queuing for the wrong thing, we hurried past and went to the Capitol as planned, giving the mysterious flower not a second thought.

Here's where the story gets more interesting. We picked up an abandoned copy of the Washington Post on the Metro this morning. In the 'Kids' section at the back was the following item:

Thursday, July 24, 2003; Page C14

Welcoming the Big Bud

The world's largest flower bloomed in Washington yesterday -- and it smelled like rotting fish.

Dozens of people lined the Botanic Garden Conservatory, just behind the U.S. Capitol, for a rare look at -- and whiff of -- the titan arum flower. The 41/2-foot-tall flower, also known as amorphophallus titanum, is bright red, frilly and stinky.

"It reminds me of 'The Little Shop of Horrors' with this big plant that talks and they said came from outer space," said 9-year-old Jessica Moss of Manassas when she went to see the plant Tuesday.

Still, it might be worth checking out. The plant's flower lasts only about 48 hours (so it will still be in bloom today) and it blooms only every few years.

You just might want to hold your nose.

-- From staff and wire reports

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

The article, and a hi-res photo of the ultra-rare, ultra-pungent flower in question is available at

In retrospect, it did seem a little odd that there was a long queue for the Botanic Gardens. Katherine and I both saw the flower, but if we'd known that the damn thing only appeared for 48 hours once every few years we might have paid more attention to it :-).

There's probably a moral to this story, but I can't for the life of me figure it out...


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