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Topping a Titan?

July 11, 2009
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There’s little chance of that! The Titan’s spadix has now collapsed to one side making him look like an enormous marabou stork standing resolutely on one firm green leg, eyes hidden in a purple ruff. I suspect he may be pouting. Clearly he is undergoing the plant equivalent of moulting, that awkward avian state between feathers, as he sheds the inflorescence and prepares a new leaf. We’ll leave him to that.

stan_tigrina_largeThere are other rare, odd, and interesting botanical events in the making at the SFSU Greenhouse! Just last week the Stanhopea tigrina orchid (pic Marty Epstein) initiated inflorescences of its own (more on Stanhopea: http://stanhopea.autrevie.com/). In many ways Stanhopea flowering is the inverse of that in Amorphophallus that sends its shoot up like a spire while these amazing orchids send their spikes down through the side or bottom of slatted pots where they dangle enormous spotted blooms. Instead of stinking, the flowers produce a heady, exquisitely sweet fragrance that will fill the entire room on the morning of opening. But as in Amorphophallus, individual blooms are short-lived, overconfident, if you will, that the strength of their scent will command the presence of their pollinators, post-haste. The pollinators happen to be iridescent, often blue-green Euglossid bees (more: http://stanhopea.autrevie.com/Stanhopea_Pollination.html). The male bees go so far as to gather the scent of Stanhopea orchids to use in courtship!  Having seen them in the wild, I wish there were some locally that could visit, but they are not that far off, as Stanhopea tigrina grows naturally just over the Texas border in Taumaulipas, Mexico. Because of this, it is exceptionally cold hardy and could be grown outdoors over much of the Bay Area with confidence were it available. I hope to keep you posted on the flowering of our plants so that you will have a chance to sample the scent female Euglossids find irrisisitable!

On another note, The SFSU Greenhouse is in possession of a taste-altering Miracle Fruit tree and usually has the berries available that can change your taste buds (for 30 minutes to 2 hours) so that sour and/or bitter foods taste incredibly sweet. I have organized tastings in the past, inviting people to bring sour foods to sample before and after a bit of Miracle Fruit, but we need someone to organize these events in the future as I am too busy and no students are available to do so. If you’d like to organize, or just help with such an event, please contact me.

Martin

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