Watching Plants Grow

Mae West once said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly." Slow is certainly the word when it comes to plant sex, but that didn't stop a lot of people from taking a peek at a flowering Titan arum in the University of Wisconsin's botany greenhouse recently. When the department's prize arum decided to do its thing, the university on the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison let the whole world play voyeur every 30 seconds via a video camera connected to the Internet. Why the fuss? The Titan ar

Barry Palevitz
Jul 8, 2001
Mae West once said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly." Slow is certainly the word when it comes to plant sex, but that didn't stop a lot of people from taking a peek at a flowering Titan arum in the University of Wisconsin's botany greenhouse recently. When the department's prize arum decided to do its thing, the university on the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison let the whole world play voyeur every 30 seconds via a video camera connected to the Internet.

Why the fuss? The Titan arum, with the titillating Latin name Amorphophallus titanum, is native to Sumatra and related to the common philodendron. It also happens to bloom only a few times in its 40-year life span. Just 15 flowerings have been recorded in U.S. collections in the last 60 years.

When Titan does bloom, it splurges big time. The flower--more correctly an inflorescence called...

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