Smelliest bulbs

Jim McKenney
Sat, 28 Aug 2010 06:43:30 PDT
Ellen wrote: “My vote goes to Brachystelma cathcartensis.  It smelled so
nasty that I 

never resampled it, which is why I can't give a very clear accounting of its

fragrance.  From memory, it was a carrion smell, but a particularly dirty 

one.  Fortunately the plant hugs the ground, and the smell doesn't seem to 

carry far (I never noticed it at all until I actually stuck my nose in it).



I’ve noticed this, too, not only with Brachystelma. cathcartensis,  but with
other asclepiads.such as the big starfish flower Stapelia. The scent isn’t
apparent until you’re nose is right over or in the flower. The scent of
these plants provides a physical sensation somewhat akin to bumping into
something: at first there is nothing and suddenly it hits you. It’s a
strange scent, and sniffing it gives another sensation, as if the nose had
been suddenly stuffed with dry tissue paper. 


After writing that it reminded me of something: I think stuffing was the
metaphor Parkinson used to describe strong odors almost four hundred years


Other plants, such as Sauromatum/Typhonium have a potent scent which carries
far: in most years, when this one blooms here I know about it because I
catch the scent from afar, long before I’ve seen the inflorescence. Close up
this one smells like warm rat feces to me (don’t ask how I know what that
smells like!), from a distance the odor is more carrion-like. 


OK, I said don’t ask me, but I’ve decide to tell you anyway. I’ve been
reading Noël Riley Fitch’s  biography of Julia Child. It seems that Julia
kept pet rats when she was a child. So did I. You may be surprised to hear
it, but rats can make surprisingly affectionate and endearing pets – but
they are pretty stinky.  Just remember to wash your hands before you head
for the kitchen. I hope Julia remembered – she wasn’t shy about popping
something back into the pan after she had dropped it on the floor!  



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden



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