Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You can't hurry love



When it comes to sex, fauna has nothing on flora.

Consider the dog. When dogs do it, their upper half appears totally unaware of what the lower half is up to. Judging from the boy dog's face, he's watching cartoons. And she, more contemplative, stares off into the ivy, wondering if that's where she lost her frisbee.

When the deed is done, they slink away in opposite directions, in tacit agreement to forget what just happened ever happened and to mention it to no one.

The plant world, on the other hand, knows no shame. Take the Amorphophallus titanum, for instance. Conveniently owning both male and female parts, the boy part works on his erection proudly, publicly, and for weeks, sometimes years, at a time. Growing two inches one day, four inches another day, and so forth, until reaching an impressive three to five feet tall. The female part doesn't help much to move things along other than handle the suspense with patience and grace.

Finally, the great day arrives. Well, actually, sometimes the great day never arrives, and the whole enterprise just peters out, as it were. But, should the great day arrive and the boy really gets it up, the girl blossom unfolds into a huge, dark burgundy flower. In celebration, the two let out one magnificent, unforgettable stink that can waft for miles. Those in the know say it smells like garbage, an outhouse, rotten eggs, or a piece of fish you left in the fridge while on vacation. Hence the common name: Corpse Flower.

The Corpse Flower bloomed at the Huntington Library this weekend. Thousands of people queued up on Sunday to catch some of the action.

As with both flora and fauna, while wooing and foreplay can take weeks, the climactic event often lasts but a few hours. I arrived 12 hours too late, and by that time found the exhausted Amorphophallus titanum smoking a cigarette, watching Breaking Bad reruns, and ordering take-out.

When I was there a week earlier, as a volunteer, staffing the information table along with a grammar school teacher, hundreds of people dropped by. Sex sells, and so, apparently, does a famously bad odor. In anticipation of the consummation, we had all sorts of drawings explaining the life cycle, including one that helpfully split the name of the plant into an English translation, including, just in case the plant hadn't already made this abundantly clear, the fact that phallus = penis.

When two little boys approached the table, the teacher slipped the English translation in a drawer, then went about her explanation using all the proper scientific terms, exchanging the word "phallus" for the equally correct, "inflorescence."

"Inflorescence, what's that?" they asked

"This, er, thing," she said, tapping the part in question with the eraser end of her pencil.

The two studied the drawings and samples on the table -- the corm, the spathe, the petiole, the inflorescence -- and then moved on.

"You know what I think?" the boy said to his friend, "I think it looks like a giant weiner."

32 comments:

  1. Another hysterical take. Yes, I think that the male dog wishes he had a TV to watch. It's known that Canadians prefer that style so they can both watch the hockey game.

    ReplyDelete
  2. From frisbee to wiener, this is one of your top ten hoochie-coochie columns!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brilliant and unforgettable - as usual!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Leave it to children to state the obvious, no matter what the teacher's efforts might have been.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Preposterous putrid pith, m'lady. Perfectly charming.

    As you were,

    ReplyDelete
  6. Guffaws and giggles is all I have to say...

    ReplyDelete
  7. A search for "Flowers Like Penis", shows some plants that must have watched a lot of porn.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Earl, Canada should sue you.

    According to the grammar school teacher, although Amorphophallus titanum is the correct name, some famous botanist thought it vulgar, so half-way successfully changed it to Titan Arum.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nature never fails to astound. I do love your colour commentary. Clearly, the young lad knows his anatomy and won't be bamboozled by flowery talk.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love this! You should ask Sandra Tsing-Loh if you could write some of her Loh-Downs on Science.

    My favorite part is when you "found the exhausted Amorphophallus titanum smoking a cigarette, watching Breaking Bad reruns, and ordering take-out." Brilliant! But does the plant die after climaxing? Good thing it doesn't know about this else it would never mate. Or would it?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh, come on, Bellis. The male plant would absolutely mate, believing that he would be the one in a million that survives the ritual, or that it would be worth the fatality if not. Any men out there going to tell us otherwise?

    ReplyDelete
  12. It seemed worth it at the time, but now I can't remember why.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Your last line -- the climax ;)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Canada would lose that lawsuit. Truth is a complete defense. I heard it from Gordy Howe.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Birds do it,
    Bees do it,
    Even Amorphophallus titana do it.

    But with that odor to contend with . . . I'll head out to the Shakespeare garden.

    ReplyDelete
  16. So, it just , you know, peters out?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Scientific fact: After the final episode of Breaking Bad has been watched, the last cig smoked, and there's not one egg roll left, the flower and phallus dissolve, retreat to the corm, and spoon underground for years and years.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Then, four years from now, or ten, or fifty, or a hundred -- the plant reappears, and the love affair resumes. Sort of like Brigadoon, but with an odor.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Cut to the chase... The boys have it! It all comes down to Wienerville.
    This is a funny post today. GRIN.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So if things don't work out does it say, "It's not me, it's me."

    ReplyDelete
  21. Love this post. Great explanation and a great story. Not a wiener at all.

    ReplyDelete
  22. P.S. Some of you think I've misspelled weiner, and have been patting yourselves on the back for not pointing this out, for your discretion in this regard. The OED, however, says that weiner is a variant of wiener, and I think the Amorphophallus titanum belongs in the variant category.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Definitely a variant if ever there was one...

    ReplyDelete
  24. You wrote a creative and
    brilliant text, as always, Karin!

    I've never heard or seen that flower before. Just awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Priceless post from beginning to end and every comment in between. Isn't nature grand?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Venus is kicking it? Allright...

    ReplyDelete
  27. Little Poland? that may be correct as Greenpoint is largely Polish, even now.

    What, Venus lost? :(

    ReplyDelete
  28. This is definitely Hiker Hall of Fame. A gift in every paragraph.

    ReplyDelete
  29. You are so darn funny! Great story...

    ReplyDelete