Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Super Freak

The tongue orchid, now blooming at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, is a star of side-show botany.


New York’s Erie County Fair, 1999

Photo: Carnival Oddities

In a league with Snake Lady and the world’s tiniest horse, there is Bulbophyllum fletcherianum, the tongue orchid. Newspapers around the world are reporting today that Melbourne’s specimen is blooming, for only the second time in thirty years.

imageBulbophyllum fletcherianum, tongue orchid

Photo: orchidjaos

This rare plant, an epiphyte native to New Guinea, is hard to sustain in captivity. It tends to grow on the face of rock cliffs. Its blooms are hairy and the color of dried blood. Its leaves droop down a meter or more, like hot tongues. Smell? According to the Tropical House curator in Melbourne, “If you mixed, say, two or three-day old rotting flesh with manure you would get pretty close.” We’d say that’s quite close enough.

We put the tongue orchid in the same tent as Titan Arum—the sideshow of the horticultural midway. Others might say our taste in flowers is mundane. Truly. We’ll take daisies, and leave tongue orchid, with its carrion scent, to the flies, gawkers and experts.

Posted by Julie on 08/27 at 10:20 AM
EcologySecular CustomsPermalink