Sunday, April 20, 2014

A plant whose smell mimics rotten flesh / animal excrement

It was last month, when I came across a strange smelling plant at Panchgani. I was in a midst of an open air discussion on 'Spring conservation in Western Ghats'. Suddenly I could smell something horrid, disgusting and unbearable smell in the air, something like a dog pooh or decaying animal. I could see also other participants looking at each other making disgusting faces and covering their nose. In the first place, I thought it might be some dead decaying animal around in some bush but when searched for it, to my surprise it was a small wild plant. I was really intrigued by its smell mimicking dead decaying flesh.

When asked about it to a botanist friend, I was told this "This plant is common in deciduous forests. It has a bulb in the ground. It flowers in March/ April. The photo is showing the flower. The middle stem like thing has pollen grains on the upper portion and female flowers on the lower portion enclosed by the spotted spathe (Petal like thing). The dirt loving flies are attracted by the foul smell and pollens get stuck to their legs, when they visit other flower they pollinate it. As soon as the rain comes the leaves come up though the ground. The pollinated flowers may turn into a fruit. It looks like corn cob dark green turning to sparkling red on maturity. In marathi it is called as Nurki (due to its smell). Botanical name is Typhonium venosum. Synonym is Sauromatum venosum family is Araceae. The plant is poisonous, but is planted as ornamental plant in some parts of the world"

Typhonium venosum plant (Image courtesy: wikipedia)
The fact that this plant/herb whose smell mimics dead decaying flesh or to some noses dog excrement leaves me pondering - how this plant/herb might have evolved in the wild to draw some specific insects to pollinate its species esp. the flies? So, if any of you happen to smell something horrid in the wild don't be carried away like I did.    

The horrid smelling plant in the wild. Notice the three flies sitting on the plant. (Image credit: R. Thomas)

No comments:

Post a Comment