Garden show exhibit features corpse plant info
February 15, 2011

Remember Audrey? That was the name given to the stinky, but fascinating, tropical corpse plant that drew thousands of Springfield area residents to last year’s Lawn and Garden Show at the Ozark Empire Fair Grounds and, later, to Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. Amorphophallus titanum wowed the crowds with its lush growth and showy blossom, a distinct contrast to its putrid smell that’s been likened to a dead rat.

Audrey, named after the voracious and fast-growing man-eating plant in the 1960 rock musical, The Little Shop of Horrors, won’t be at this year’s show, but visitors to the E-Plex on Friday-Sunday, Feb. 18-20, 2011, can view an exhibit of the corpse plant and learn more about this superstar of the plant kingdom from Friends of the Garden members.

Audrey, currently eight feet tall with a leaflet canopy nine foot in diameter, currently resides in the Forsyth home of Dr. William Roston who bought it as a 35-pound tuber through eBay. The plant, native to the island of Sumatra, has bloomed fewer than 60 times since 1939 in the U.S. Its flower lasts only about 36 hours.

“It is in our dining room and will remain captive until at a random time, maybe 12 to 18 months, it goes dormant,” said Roston, a retired osteopath and the primary garden designer for the nonprofit Friends of the Garden organization. “At that time, we will be able to move it out of the house. It is a beautiful plant and, as I sit here under its canopy eating breakfast, I wonder who the captive is.”

After Audrey bloomed in early March 2010, the flower wilted and the tuber went dormant for about two months, said Roston. The bud of the new leaf began to grow from the tuber in early April.

“We took it outside in early June. At that time the leaf petiole, the stem of the leaf, was about six feet tall and the canopy of the leaflets was three feet in diameter,” Roston explained. “In mid-September, we brought Audrey into the house to keep from freezing and just barely got her in through the door. It will go through the leaf cycle for three to ten years. As the tuber grows and stores energy, it will produce another flower, always at random.”

Roston plans to “baby” Audrey along, hoping for another spectacular, albeit smelly, bloom in a few years. He'll be sure to let you know when.

ABOUT THE FRIENDS OF THE GARDEN: Volunteers with the Friends of the Garden design, create and maintain many of the more than two dozen botanical gardens that dot the countryside of the 114-acre Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, located at 2400 Scenic Ave. in southwest Springfield. Formed in 1998 and instrumental in the founding of the newly constructed Botanical Center in the public park and arboretum, the nonprofit group currently has more than 600 members. Tax-deductible $25 annual memberships and contributions to the Friends of the Garden Growth and Maintenance Fund may be sent to P.O. Box 8566, Springfield, MO 65801.

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