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Hot Time, Summer In The City

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, or the first day of Summer. Normally the Solstice is on the 21st, but due to astronomical weirdness, it was on the 20th this year. Anyway, the temperature went from a comfortable 75º the day before to a sweltering 98º in less than twelve hours. It was as if someone said “Summer is here” and threw a switch.

What better way to enjoy the heat than to wait in line to see and smell a plant which entices its pollinators by mimicking the scent of rotting flesh? Super hot day, the odor of decay, it’s a “can’t miss” combination! We are, of course, talking about the Amorphophallus Titanum, otherwise known as “Corpse Flower,” which recently bloomed at the Franklin Park Zoo. This flower is a native of Indonesia. The 200-pound flower favors conditions of 80º+ temperatures and 80-90% humidity. Kind of like yesterday.

The Zoo set up a temporary greenhouse next to the Zebra Entrance and visitors began filing in for a peek last Thursday. The giant flower, named “Morticia” by the Zoo staff, began blooming Monday night around 9 and peaked on Tuesday. By the time we got there (Wed 6PM) the outer petal had already started to wilt and the “rotting flesh” aroma had mostly dissipated. What lingered in the air was more reminiscent of low tide.

Along with “Morticia” was “Fester” which bloomed a week ago. The flower’s bloom lasts only two days before it starts to die. It was interesting to be able to see the two together as it gave us a feel for how drastic the bloom changes. What the Zoo should have done, of course, was to put in a “CorpseCAM” so we could see the changes over its short bloom period.

Perhaps the Zoo will do that for their next one because they actually have four corpse flowers in their collection. The plants were all donated by Dr. Louis Ricciardiello, an oral surgeon in Laconia, N.H. Dr. Ricciardiello is currently the Guinness World Record holder for cultivating the world’s tallest Amorphophallus Titanum bloom (10 feet, 2 inches, in 2010). In New Hampshire.

Even with having to wait (unbelievably sweatily) in line in the 90º heat, we are glad that we did not miss this particular event as we would have had to wait another 15 years (Yes..15) for Morticia to bloom again. Hot times, Summer in the city indeed!

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