8 June 2010

the quick and the dead

Again I find myself delighted by the Dragon Arum, Dracunculus vulgaris, and its comedy stinkiness.  Every year without fail the flowers, whopping great funnels of rich velvety purple, fill the garden with a far reaching stench of death, perturbing visitors and making me smile.  The flowers fragrant mimicry is proven effective as the blooms dance with flies drawn excitedly to the promise of a corpse-based feast.  They will be disappointed.  
The flowers only stink to heaven on the first day of opening and this is key to their successful cross pollination.  Inside the flower the female parts are receptive to pollen only as it opens and smells ripest.  As flies enter the bloom they deposit pollen carried on their hairy bodies, fertilising the flower, but they are unable to climb the waxy, slippery walls of the flower to get out.  Trapping the flies overnight until it is no longer receptive to pollen, the flower releases its own, the scent fades and the flower starts to wither - in the morning the hungry flies with a fresh coat of pollen flies are released.  Of course being gluttonous simpletons they rush to the next freshly opened flower only to spend another night trapped by deceit.  Ha!  

Here the flies get busy on a newly opened bloom.


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