From Plant Press, Vol. 19, No. 4, October 2016.
By Morgan Gostel, Vicki A. Funk, Melinda Peters & Susan Pell
Last month, the U.S. National Herbarium received a very special addition to our collections – a specimen from the living collection of the U.S. Botanic Garden’s (USBG), our next door neighbor on the National Mall. Between 29 July and 9 August 2016, tens of thousands of visitors passed through the USBG’s Conservatory to catch a glimpse of the (in)famous corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum. The flower reached peak bloom between 2–5 August 2016 while much of our Botany Department staff was out of town in Savannah, Georgia, attending the annual meetings of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the Botanical Society of America. We still had a chance to revel in the excitement of this rare event, however, thanks to USBG’s Science and Public Programs Manager, Susan Pell.
After the flower’s peak bloom, Pell contacted the Global Genome Initiative Gardens (GGI Gardens) program to ask if we would like to sample this specimen as a part of our ongoing partnership and to add a herbarium voucher to the herbarium. Of course we said yes!
Preparing a voucher from such a large inflorescence – over 2 meters – is no easy task and required teamwork from several members of the Botany Department over the course of two days (9 and 18 August 2016). On the first day, we prepared a voucher from only the spathe – a large bract that surrounds the spadix, where flowers are born. We captured these moments in a series of photographs and videos. Once USBG determined their pollination attempt had not succeeded, the GGI Gardens team was able to collect and press the rest of the inflorescence.
Informative photos and videos of the corpse flower at the USBG have been posted on Facebook (U.S. Botanic Garden), Instagram (@USBotanicGarden), and YouTube (United States Botanic Garden). USBG also has a corpse flower webpage (www.usbg.gov/corpseflower). Posted videos include interviews, demonstration of the pollination attempt and scent collection, and a time-lapse of the bloom.
Additional photos of the voucher preparation after the jump...