“Spike,” the world’s smelliest plant who’s been keeping many Chicagoans on edge awaiting his smelly debut is about to come into bloom (more or less).
According to trusted sources, it looks like tomorrow is the day that “Spike” will finally deliver his highly anticipated scent (with a little help from his friends) kicking off at 10 a.m. in his home, since 2003, inside the Chicago Botanic Garden’s semi-tropical greenhouse.
So what makes this breaking news…and why do we care?
Because we are Chicago…the home of bad smells…and if the highly anticipated noxious fumes from “Spike” are not delivered, as promised, we will be very disappointed.
After all, our very name, Chicago, derived from the Indian “shikaakwa,” means “striped skunk” or “smelly onion” in other words bad smells are who we are.
Although we don’t celebrate our historic stench on our city’s 4-star flag that marks Ft. Dearborn; the Great Chicago Fire; the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893); and the Century of Progress (1933–1934); we celebrate it in our hearts and our sensory memories.
From the Chicago Stockyards (1865-1971), whose famous scent perfumed the air for many miles and many years from its iconic home in Chicago’s “Back of the Yards” neighborhood on Chicago’s south side (Pershing Road, Ashland, Halsted, and 47th Street), to our very roots, it only makes sense that this latest stink is newsworthy.
It looks like tomorrow’s 10 a.m. opening may be more like a C-section than a natural birth…but here’s what they’re saying at the garden.
Here’s what we know…
Conservation scientists and horticulturists have now determined that Spike lacks the energy to open by itself. Members of the horticulture and conservation science departments, Tim Pollak, Patrick Herendeen, and Shannon Still, will remove the spathe, cutting around the base of the flower just above where it attaches to the stalk of the plant.
At that time, we will determine if the male flowers are functional. If they are, the scientists will harvest pollen for future use in pollination. It is a common practice in horticultural plant breeding as well as science research practice to dissect the plant in search of pollen, or remove the spathe entirely to make manual pollination easier, which supports plant diversity and conservation.
Its corm will rest for a short period, then recharge itself by sending up a 12-foot-tall leaf to absorb sunlight, replacing the huge amount of energy expended by its attempt to bloom. At this time, the Garden has eight additional titan arum plants that we are watching carefully for bloom.”
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Spike Update, noon, August 30th
Spike behaved like a real gentleman at this morning’s opening, allowing the CBG scientists to extract his bloom without putting up a stink.
Reader update, Sunday evening, August 30th
She told us that Spike’s outer petals were removed and were available for sniffing. She described the aroma as a scent of garlic and rot—like seasoned garbage.
Spike will be available for viewing at the garden through today (Tuesday, September 1).
And more good news!
Spike will live to bloom again (although it will take a few more years). His corm (bulb) will be replanted and is expected to generate another flower in three to five years.
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