Sauromatum on the wiki and in the garden

Jim McKenney
Thu, 09 Jun 2005 15:00:36 PDT
I've added two images of Sauromatum guttatum (aka S. venosum) to the wiki.
Take a look at:


  These are blooming now and are totally disgusting!

The newly opened spathe is really interesting, even beautiful and colorful. 
The long gently curving spadix gives the inflorescence a graceful quality. 
But the stench!!!!!   Other malodorous aroids smell of carrion. This one 
reeks of fresh, warm rat feces. It's amazing to me how pervasive this 
stench is in the garden. I noticed it the other day while working on the 
other side of the house the offending plants were fifty or sixty feet 
away.  The flies noticed it, too: they are all over it. Later in the year 
I'll post photos of the foliage (decorative and tropical) and, if they 
appear, the interesting fruits. These fruits look a bit like pomegranates.

Here.s a Sauromatum story which I hope I have not posted before. Years ago, 
a female rat got into the house and raised a family before we realized what 
was going on. When I found the nest, the smell was awful. The rats would 
not touch baited traps, so I resorted to Warfarin. It worked. Within a 
week, the nauseating stench of dead rat emanated from crevices deep within 
the house. The experience, one I hope never to repeat, made a deeply 
offensive impression on me.

Now fast forward several years. Im in the storage area of the basement 
cleaning in late winter. I catch a whiff of something disturbingly 
familiar: it's the rat smell again, not the smell of dead rat, which is bad 
enough but at least carries the consolation that it announces the end of a 
problem, but live rat, live rat with a healthy digestive tract and 
evidently eating very well indeed. With growing senses of dread and 
apprehension I begin to sniff around and try to find the source of the 
smell. I go for the obvious places: behind bookcases, near faucets, deep in 
ground level closets. I'm not finding anything. not even traces of rat 
activity. It's not making sense:  the smell is not coming from the places 
where you would expect to find a rat. I twitch my nose a few times, and it 
seems to indicate a nearby shelf. I stare towards  the apparent source of 
the smell, and suddenly there it is, a rat tail hanging out of a tangle of 
stored items. I plan my attack.

But wait a minute: the rat tail is not moving at all. The rat tail does not 
seem to have any hair on it. The rat tail is not a rat tail, it's the 
spadix of a Sauromatum which had been stored on the shelf.

The spadix was promptly snapped off (the spadix is the source of the 
stench) and thrown out into the winter garden. The rest of the plant was 
brought out and spent the rest of the week prompting numerous re-tellings 
of the latest ratstory.

Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the Sauromatum are 
giving the Dracunculus a run for the distinction of being the grossest 
plant in the garden this week.

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