Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mystery Plant Exposes Himself!

It happened one night ... sometime last night, to be precise ... but it happened! The long wait (since planting in fall 2005) is now over and the obscenely spectacular Dragon Arum (Dracunculus vulgaris) finally burst into bloom. Imagine going into your dining room early one morning before work and opening the blinds facing on your woodland garden to see this pointing back at you!

Such a bloom is definitely something you don't see every day! And neither is this plant, which is of course what prompted us, connoisseurs of the florally bizarre, to seek out a bulb and try it out in our garden. When we first saw a photo for this arum in a catalogue we were positively enthralled and intrigued by its in your face blatant sexuality and were thrilled to see that it was actually hardy to our zone! And now that we've successfully brought one into bloom, we are going to be ordering several more to plant this fall ... alternately known as Voodoo Lily or Dragon Lily, no matter what you choose to call it, it's one attention catching plant when it blooms!

All flowers, of course, have their intimate sexual sides to them, but it's something most of us rarely pay attention to unless you're as eager as we are to cultivate the odd and unusual (or you're an inner bits fan and flower de-pantser like Olivia). To call this specimen an exhibitionist would be a bit of an understatement. There's no mistaking what's going on with this bloom, and the more you examine it, the more it thrusts its eerie sexuality right in your face, where, I must add, it emits quite a stench. This plant manages simultaneously to embody both eros and thanatos all in one big display held high on a sturdy trunk that is now about 3 1/2 feet tall. Its clearly phallic spadix and lurid colour easily evoke eros, but the thanatos side is a bit more subtle ... that is, until you get up close and you're immediately assailed by the fragrance of what can only be compared to something dead, or at least rotten meat. And with the wonderful logic of so many flowers who have adapted themselves to schemes both ingenious and bizarre, there is a reason for its odoriferous nature. It's pollinated by carrion flies who flock to the flower, attracted by the promise of death and decay, only to be lured into pollinating this very clever flower. If you look closely at the first photo, you'll see several lurking around, eagerly exploring this exotic garden destination.

Fortunately Fernymoss had the day off today, so he was busy (in between rain showers) outside capturing as many angles and details of the flower as he could get. I'll be posting some more views and close ups over the next few days to illustrate just how intriguing this flower can be. I do have to say that from its first emergence as an oddly patterned spike (see previous posts labeled Mystery Plant for details) to its current state, every aspect of this plant has an attractive feature to recommend it to those courageous iconoclasts who would find a space for it in their gardens! I'll be featuring this again periodically to chronicle its progression through its annual cycle, since apparently when it is done blooming it will then put on an equally odd and suggestive seed pod that we hope will provide us with some viable seeds come fall. More to come ....but if you're interested in seeing more photos of Dracunculus vulgaris, go to this entry from

Photos courtesy of Fernymoss, taken May 30, 2007.


olivia said...

Oh man, that is so awesome! LOL ... florally bizarre is right!

And wowzers on the future seed pod!! Just had a look at the davesgarden link, and the guy said he puts a stocking on the pod to keep the bugs out. So inside the spadix, the seeds are forming?

olivia said...

LOL, I was just looking through some of the other photos at that link IVG, and check this one out: [LINK]. It's in the HOUSE!!! Can you imagine!

LOL ... the caption says,

"Flower is over 2 feet! Beautiful but smells like a sewer."


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

LOL, I can't imagine having it in the house... makes me wonder if they grew it in there or just cut the bloom off... it does look a lot more vertical than ours does. In either case, it doesn't seem like an appropriate indoor plant to me!!

Family Man said...

So I finally know what the mystery plant is and it's a smelly exhibitionist. Good for you IVG! :)

It seems here lately I've been having to catch up on your post. I've got to stay more in the loop. I am glad to see you posting a good bit though. It always add a good bit to my day.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Howdy FM ... I'm pretty sure these are hardy to your zone, if you'd like to plant something easy that will shock your neighbors! We're hoping to start a trend, in case you hadn't noticed, hehe.

I know about dropping out of the loop myself, as I feel that's the way I've been for way too long with the workload the way it has been lately. So just come on over when the spirit moves you and enjoy the flowers! No weeding involved ... so how's that for a slackerly deal??

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