Garden Diary - June 2009

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Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Dracunculus vulgaris

As I mentioned earlier this month when writing about Pinellia cordata, I'm especially fond of aroids, plants in the arum family. There are hardy natives such as Jack in the pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum; tender exotics like the various elephant ear, Colocasia, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma; and other exotics that thrive in New Jersey. Like dragon arum, Dracunculus vulgaris.

Native to portions of the Mediterranean area, dragon arum grows well
here at BelleWood Gardens. Plant the tuber(s) in Spring to establish
before winter dormancy. Some plants have plain green leaves, others
have white markings. Stems are mottled. They'll take a couple of years
to establish sufficiently and reach flowering size. If it makes you think
of daisies or roses "flowering" is somewhat of a misnomer. You see

flowers are a plant's way of advertising for pollinators. Flies and carrion beetles perform this service
for dragon arum. And what attracts carrion beetles? Rotting meat. A stench like a decaying corpse
and a spathe the color of rotting meat. Malodorus, to put it mildly. The putrid odor is strongest
the first day after dragon arum opens, with ruffle edged spathe and erect, black, eggplant-shiny spadix.

Oddly, neighborhood dogs seem unimpressed, ignoring dragon arum while otherwise
gleefully, happily rolling in the smelliest, stinkiest, decaying dead critter they can find.
But then, dogs don't pollinate flowers. So dragon arum must be lacking in some essential
olfactory component. Matters not. To humans, it's foul odor demands planting at a distance,
not anywhere near the house. And I wouldn't try using it for a bouquet, goth style or not.
Other-worldly, fantastical, unusual, wonderful. But definitely, plant away from your house.

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