Horticultural Midwifery

Photo: Robert Barker / Cornell University

At risk of being labeled a “horticultural geek” I feel compelled to continue Audrey‘s story.  (Although I surely should stop calling the plant by that name, but once again, I can’t seem to help myself.)

Most plants in cultivation require human pollination in order to remain genetically viable.  The Titan Arum is no acception.  In fact, this plant actually can’t self pollinate because the 450 female flowers that ring the base of the column-like structure (spadix) are receptive days before the the 500 to 1,000 male flowers above them are ready to  shed their pollen. (Even in botany females mature earlier than males!)

In her native Sumatra (where the plant is becoming increasingly rare due to deforestation) the blooming plant would exude both elevated temperatures and smells of decay, thus attracting carrion beetles and other pollinating insects.

In lieu of “birds, bees and bats” Audrey got Department of Plant Biology and Department of Neurobiology and Behavior graduate students with a supply of pollen from specimen at Binghamton University. Cornell will send pollen to Binghamton and other institutions with Titan Arum specimens.

The pictures below are from Andy Leed, Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences greenhouse manager, of collecting pollen from the titan arum at Binghamton University.

Female flowers ring the base of the spadix. Note hole in the spathe for access to collect pollen.

Female flowers at base of spadix with male flowers above.

Collecting pollen from Binghamton University arum titan.

3 thoughts on “Horticultural Midwifery

  1. Pingback: “Audrey” Redux « Raxa Collective

  2. Pingback: There’s Something About Audrey « Raxa Collective

  3. Pingback: Improving Governance For The Environment, One Citizen And One Pollinator At A Time | Raxa Collective

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