Monday, January 30, 2006

The King Of Stinky!

Amorphophallus titanium is the largest of the stink lilies! This giant arum originates in the moist shaded rainforests of Sumatra. In the wild, when growing in the ground the blooms can get up to 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide. In the leaf cycle, it can grow up to 20 feet high and 15 feet across. The first European botanist to encounter it was the Italian, Odoardo Beccari, who was traveling in the region in 1878. He sent back seeds to his patron in Italy and one of the young plants that germinated from them was subsequently dispatched to Kew, where it flowered in 1889, exciting great public interest. In 1926, when it flowered again, the crowds attracted by the phenomenon were so large that the police were called to control them.

The largest flower in the world, also a native of Sumatra, is Rafflesia arnoldii, which also deceives insects with the smell of decay. Amorphophallus titanium grows from a corm of up to 50 centimeters diameter and weighing over 50 kilograms (the heaviest recorded was 75 kilograms). After a dormant period of several months, a bud will develop, growing at a rate of 4-20 centimeters a day.

The flower attracts dung and carrion beetles by exuding a rotten smell. They enter the chamber in the lower part of the flower, where they fertilize the female flower if they are carrying pollen from another bloom. On the way out, the insects are coated with pollen that they may then carry to another plant. Like the Rafflesia, the flowering period of the Amorphophallus is brief - two to three days - after which the flower collapses.

Another interesting note about the plants in the genus Amorphophallus is that they are able to generate heat (thermogenic plants). At the peak of its metabolic activity, the plant’s blossom can be as much as 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees F.) above its surrounding temperature. To generate this much heat, the metabolic rate of the plant must be close to that of a flying hummingbird. Reason for this heat production is the plant “cooks off” the smell of rotting meat in order to attract insects. Once inside the blossom, the heat causes the insects to remain very active to better carry out their pollination duties.

The website below is from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL where Amorphophallus titanium bloomed on June 4-27, 1998. It is so impressive. Can you image the smell this critter pumps out from the blossom?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Stinky In Action!

Here is my wife with a past blossom of Amorphophallus konjac. The plant is native to warm temperate through tropical climates in eastern Asia from Japan and China south to Indonesia. Notice the pleasure in her face as she inhales the "unique” odor of this flower.

I thought I would include a few facts that are presented about Amorphophallus konjac in Wikipedia.

Cultivation and uses

Konjac is grown in China and Japan for its large starchy corm, used to create a flour and gel of the same name. It may also be used as a vegan substitute for gelatin

Konjac is also used in a popular fruit gel snack, served in bite-sized plastic cups. The snacks are often imported from Asian countries. Recently, there has been some concern about the risk of choking from these snacks, and subsequent recalls in the U.S. and Canada. Unlike gelatin, konjac gel does not dissolve readily in
the mouth. Thus the snacks typically have warning labels advising parents to ensure their children chew them thoroughly before swallowing.

The dried corm of the konjac plant contains around 40% glucomannan gum. This polysaccharide makes konjac gel highly viscous.

Konjac powder was added to the first national currency of Japan in the late 1800s to prevent counterfeiting, but this was stopped after rats started eating the bills.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My Little Stinkers Are Ready!

For many years I have been raising a unique plant known as Amorphophallus konjac. I first came in contact with this aroid plant when, in my freshman year of college (1969), my chemistry teacher proudly exhibited his blossoming specimens. This plant in the summer has one giant divided leaf on top of a 5-6' tall green and purple mottled, fleshy stalk (petiole). When old enough, the tuber produces a fascinating six-foot flower resembling a giant vase made from the purple vinyl used for cheap '70s car seats. This description is from a great nursery on-line catalog, which can be found at The vase (spathe) is home to a 3' purple spadix that sits atop a 2' speckled petiole.

During the fall I always remove the tubers from the flower garden and let them dry in the basement on a shelf. I have now placed them in a basket and brought them upstairs where they are now exposed to the sunlight. They will bloom without benefit of water or soil in several weeks! At the height of growth, they grow several inches per day. I shall keep you informed on the little stinkers progress. Let me see- did I say “Little Stinkers”?

What a wonderful bloom! My wife might disagree with the adjective “wonderful”. These plants produce an odor very similar to decaying flesh. This smell is very potent and one blossom will let its presence be known throughout the house. These blossoms are pollinated by flesh flies. I always am amazed with the complexity and the interconnectivity found in nature. The tuber below is a foot in diameter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's a boy!

Yes, a few of you all asked how we know that the new grandchild due in May would be a boy? Even on the standard ultrasound, one can see the specific genitals. In this case the pointer is showing the male genitalia. As the technician said, "There- you can see IT now!".

The really amazing advances in ulrasound technology allows one to view the unborn child in three dimensions. Below are a few three dimensional ultrasounds of our new grandson. The first shows his profile plus the attached umbilical cord. The second is really interesting. He is actively involved with sucking his thumb!

Friday, January 20, 2006


On this beautiful and sunny day, I am sitting here pondering life. This can only really be done in a quiet moment when thoughts of the past, present, and future are able to clearly present themselves. I am thinking how blessed we have been throughout our married lives in being able to raise and educate our girls. Each has grown into an adult with her own family. They are now encountering the joys and the uncertainties that exist in this world. As parents, the natural reaction is to protect and lead each family safely down life’s path, but that is out of our control, nor should it be our responsibility. We can advise and help when possible, but the steps in life must be their own steps!

Our girls are unique in everyway. They are good and caring ladies. I am certain as you see your own daughters and sons grow that you have also discovered that each sibling tends to have a chemistry and personality distinctly unique. How great life is!

Speaking of the greatness of life, it is always amazing to realize that our essence continues in not only our children, but proceeds forward throughout the centuries in their children and their children’s children. We have been blessed with our three-year-old granddaughter whose photo is above. She is such a joy and is so loving. Of course she is the smartest three-year-old in the nation. (Boy, is that grandpa talk?) How amazing it is to watch her learn and develop.

The photos below are ultrasounds of our newest grandchild. He will be born in May and will be our youngest daughter’s first born. Is it not wonderful to see this fellow developing in the womb? The profile, the feet, and the arms! My heart says, “I already know and love you and I will be so happy to be able to hold you in May”. I cannot wait, as I did with our three-year-old granddaughter, to introduce him to life’s adventures- capturing fireflies, going on insect safaris , and telling “scary” stories. There is a new world waiting for them and us!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Eagle Cam!

There is a super cam that is trained on a pair of Bald Eagles nesting on the site of the National Conservation Training Center located in the forest near Shepherdstown, WV. The site can be found by clicking on . The NCTC is a wonderful facility operated by the US Fish and Wildlife service. Our granddaughter is blessed by being able to attend the daycare facility operated by the NCTC. Her daycare school is located just yards away from the active eagle’s nest and the eagle cam. In the past weeks, they have been watching the mated pair of eagles preparing the nest. You do need to check out this neat bit of great technology.

NCTC has marvelous facilities and presents a lecture series that is open to the public. Below is an example of the next lecture series on the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Wish we were closer in order that we could attend.

Phillip Hoose
The Race to Save the Lord God Bird:
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 7:30 pm
National Conservation Training Center
Entry Building Byrd Auditorium
Shepherd Grade Road
Shepherdstown, WV 25443

The Presentation:
On Wednesday, February 8 at 7:30 pm author Phillip Hoose will present “The Race to Save the Lord God Bird: The Ivory-billed Woodpecker” in the Byrd Auditorium at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. The presentation is co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia and the Potomac Valley Audubon Society.The tragedy of extinction is explained through the dr
amatic story of a legendary bird, the ivory-billed woodpecker, and of those who tried to possess it, paint it, shoot it, sell it, and, in a last-ditch effort, save it. Hoose’s presentation covers the woodpecker’s tangled history as it was made extinct throughout much of the South and then recently rediscovered The talk is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required.
It is part of a monthly series of "Conservation & Community" public lectures held at the
National Conser
vation Training Center.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Myrtle Beach

Happy New Year to all!

We spent the first week in January in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I had a business meeting and the good wife went along and spent her mornings quilting. Yes, she took her friend, the sewing machine. The cleaning ladies at the Marriott Resort at Grand Dunes were certainly interested in her creations. We had a great time and what great seafood! We had broiled seafood platters that were amazing.

A cute food
story concerning the wife has to be shared. She decided that instead of eating in the resort’s restaurant for breakfast that it would be healthier to eat breakfast in the room. We stopped by the local grocery and she purchased instant oatmeal, soup, microwave popcorn, etc. On Thursday she decided that she would fix oatmeal in the microwave. Having stirred the milk and cereal in a microwave bowl, she placed the food in the microwave, which was located in the entertainment unit above the refrigerator. She pressed the button and discovered that she had locked her oatmeal in the SAFE!!! What she thought was the microwave was the room’s security safe. Oh, what fun we have in this life.