Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Amorphophallus titanum--Corpse Flower
Okay, so it is not really the largest flower in the world, it is the largest unbranched inflorescence. Whatever. It is still very impressive. And smelly! Like rotting flesh. While the lovely smell of most flowers attracts bees or hummingbirds, the disgusting smell of this flower probably attracts carrion beetle or sweat bees. Carrion beetles lay their eggs in dead meat, which the larvae eat when they hatch. Sweat bees are attracted to perspiration because they like salt. But what is the deal with salt? It has no calories. Maybe it has vitamins and minerals. One sweat bee, the alkali bee, is used for pollinating alfalfa in California. Alkali bees nest in alkali beds where salt comes to the surface and makes a crust. Alfalfa growers construct alkali bee beds to maintain bee colonies near their crop for pollination. The alkali bees are much better at pollinating the alfalfa than honey bees. Anyway, the Corpse Flower (aka Titan Arum) is about to bloom at the UC Botanical Garden. I think it should be called "Sweaty Sweetie" in honor of the pollinator. But over 100 names were submitted, so I think my chances are low. Except, my name is the best and probably the only one that pays homage to an insect. We all love to hate insects, but they are an important part of ecology, and pollination is only one of many jobs they perform for us.