After spending the day at the Tilden Park Botanical Garden ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the abundance of lovely and sweetly scented spring flowers, we arrived home to find a flower of a different sort. Dracunculus vulgaris is a very large exotic flower, but its dubious claim to fame is that it’s one of the stinkiest flowers in the world. And we’re proud to say that one is now blooming in our garden!
Mr. Stinky has some vividly descriptive nicknames, including Dragon Arum, Black Dragon, Voodoo Lily, Snake Lily and Stink Lily. Actually not a lily at all, the Dracunculus is in the Aroid family, and is related to Calla lilies and skunk cabbage. The Dragon’s extremely unpleasant smell of rotting meat attracts flies to pollinate it.
George remembered that the first time the parent of this flower bloomed, “it attracted a poor Turkey Vulture, which was circling the house low over and over looking for the corpse. I kept seeing it flying and went outside to see if I could find what it was searching for. I could indeed smell the carrion, but where and what? I followed my nose … and there it was!”
Happily, the bad odor only lasts until the Dragon attracts some pollinators, then you can enjoy the exotic flower close-up. The spadix, the long dark appendage, protrudes from the frilly deep purple spathe. The Dragon is easy to grow in many climates, and spreads by self-seeding or bulb-offset. Even when it’s not blooming it’s a very attractive plant, with a sturdy stalk and frilly leaves.
Anything small and sweet or large and dramatic blooming in your garden this spring?