jueves, 13 de noviembre de 2014

The Corpse Flower

Here is the famous corpse flower in full bloom at the US Botanic Garden. While many visitors expected to smell the flower's powerful scent, a few were a little disappointed.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 Why is an Italian explorer in Sumatra mentioned?
2 When does the peak smell usually come?
3 What does the smell attract?
4 How long does the plant release the smell?
5 What gets trapped inside the plant?
6 When does the plant produce the most stinking smell?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

I'm interested to see the stinky, corpsy smell.
According to this brochure, it's a stinky plant.
Well, they said rotting meat.  So I'm going to assume if it's in bloom it's going to stink.
We're display a titan arum.  The latin name of this plant is Amorphophallus titanium.  It's a really awesome plant that was first discovered to Western scientists in the late 1800s by an Italian explorer in Sumatra, Indonesia (1).
It's got this crazy, disgusting smell.  In fact, the Indonesian name for the plant directly translates as 'corpse flower' and it smells like a rotting corpse.
The peak smell usually comes within just a couple of hours of opening (2).  So as soon as it is open enough, it starts generating the stench and that peaks within three to four hours later.
The way the flower works is it has two runs of flowers down in its base, and the female flowers are the first to start.  And their strategy is to put the cattle call out to every carrion fly, beetle, sweat fly [insects (3)]...
They think they are going towards a rotting corpse which is what they love.  They love to eat them.  They like to lay eggs in them.  They like to have a great time in them.
So it pulses that smell out to get insects in that hopefully already have pollen on them from a previous plant that was in the male cycle somewhere in the area.  So they come in, the heat generates the smell.  It's just overwhelmingly wonderful for them.
The plant only releases the putrid smell for two nights (4).  The insects actually get trapped inside the plant (5).
And then the male flowers open up.  It's already got the pollinators inside.  It doesn't need to make any more smell.  So after that first twelve hours, its got what it needs in there, it starts raining pollen down on them and then it can let them go. It kind of starts easing up after the flower's been open about 24, 36 hours.  And the beetles can escape, again with pollen on them.
It didn't smell that bad, actually.  I didn't smell any really bad odor but I guess it was if you got close enough. We weren't that close.
It wasn't as strong as I thought it would be. But I could kind of smell it.  It smelled like a mixture of maggots and really smelly feet.
Fortunately for the public, the plant produces its most odoriferous emissions the middle of the night from about midnight to 4am (6).  So nobody will be around.  So during the day when the visitors come in, it's just going to be a bit less of that smell.  And so people will smell it.  And the plant is in a rather large greenhouse and that will dilute the smell a little bit but people should be able it, no problem.
Every now and then, I could a little whiff and went, 'Whoah!.' Also, I don't really, we don't really smell rotten flesh all that often.  Just alone it was cool to look at.