Wildlife in the Greenhouse
March 22, 2010
I did a ton of raking here last week during those lovely warm sunny days. This is a chore that perhaps I should do more of in the fall. But, in the fall my rationalization for NOT raking is that the leaves insulate the crown of the plant from freezing temperatures, decomposing leaves help build the soil, and besides, it’s getting cold! The down side in the spring is that little critters love to hide in those leaves and sometimes wreak havoc by nibbling on the plants. URIBG is a haven for all kinds of wild life besides the mice who nibble. There are rabbits, woodchucks, chipmunks, squirrels, moles and voles. I have seen a coyote and a red fox in the garden. On a quiet hot August day, deer will cross Flagg Road to come and eat whatever they can find (everything). There are many, many birds, robins, cardinals, sparrows and more. Hawks periodically dive in for a meal of mouse or rabbit. On one memorable occasion, a hawk flew toward the greenhouse. A smaller bird would have been stunned, but the hawk was big enough to go right through the glass. We quickly opened all the vents but were able to snap a few pictures before the hawk found it’s way out, unharmed.
Amorphophallus konjac is blooming now in the URI Horridge Conservatory. This herbaceous perennial plant is native to tropical southeast Asia. A large bulb sends up a single shoot with a single (compound) leaf.After a season of photosynthesizing, this shoot dies back to the ground. The plant remains dormant until the next growing season, when it sends up a single flower. This spectacular flower consists of a spadix (floral spike) and a spathe (modified leaf which surrounds the spadix).At the moment, it measures 42 ” tall!
Although the Amorphophallus flower is beautiful in an elegant way, it’s fragrance is not at all beautiful. To attract pollinators, it emits a tantalizing odor of rotting meat. The mottled maroon coloring of the inflorescence also adds to the illusion of food for the insects. This spring the “dead mouse'” smell is not that strong, perhaps because it’s cloudy. At any rate, the flower lasts only a few days, and then the plant begins to die back, to start the cycle of dormancy and growth again.
The Horridge Conservatory is fortunate to have another Amorphophallus plant, A. titanum. Native to the island of Sumatra, the Titan Arum or Corpse Flower has the largest unbranched inflorescence known — up to 6 ft tall and 3 feet around! In it’s vegetative stage in our greenhouse, it is currently standing at 44 inches. It could flower as soon as spring 2011. We’ll keep you posted.
A.konjac, March 17th
A.konjac on March 22