GLASSHOUSES: Life of a Corpse Flower

NEW YORK (MindaNews/13 April) — I just realized today how lucky I was to have seen a rare occurrence in my lifetime and that happened a long time ago.

It was an ordinary day. I was not sure about the exact time but the entire family smelled something like a corpse. We all went around the house and yard looking where the smell was coming from. I made sure every member of the family was accounted for.

The next lot which we do not own was vacant and sometimes we used it as a garden. It was a source of everyday vegetables, mostly kamote tops, kamunggay (moringa), tomatoes, eggplant.

Having found nothing inside and outside the house, we went ahead to inspect the next lot and lo and behold, I saw the largest and the most beautiful flower I have ever seen! The stench of death was coming from the flower. Thank God!

Because of the smell, flies were attracted to it. I went inside to get a camera but by the time I came out, my late brother Romy already cut the flower down.

I intended to call the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to identify the species but due to miscommunication, we lost an opportunity to learn about something we did not have any knowledge about.

There are plenty of those still growing on the property, I told myself. Maybe one day, another bloom will come. Years came and went but no flower came. Nothing was said about it since then.

Last July 2016, I heard the news about a rare flower that was about to bloom at the New York Botanical Garden. I only got a glimpse of the flower, heard its name: Corpse Flower, whose bloom lasts 24 to 36 hours.

Oh well, I told myself, I already saw one. Maybe another time, I can get to see one in bloom again.

When a friend posted a picture of a flower, the image of the biggest and smelliest flower came to mind. I tried to locate the news and came to see how much information I missed about it.

The wild flower tended at the New York Botanical Garden took almost 76 years before one got another opportunity to see another flower in bloom since 1939.

Oh, I missed another big opportunity because I did not know then what I needed to know about the rare flower while opportunity presented itself. I was busy with everyday life.

The flower is said to be found in low-lying rainforests of Indonesia and are protected.

Today I learned that the scientific name of the Corpse Flower at the NY Botanical garden is Amorphopallus Titanum which appeared bigger than what I saw in the Philippines.

Further research is needed to document the species I saw in the Philippines but I am certain it belongs to the same family due to the plant’s appearance, form, shape, color and odor of the flower.

Why do I spend so much time writing what I write about? It is for a million and one reasons. Very clearly, there is a lot of things to learn, more to explore and discover.

The Philippines is considered the richest in the world in terms of biodiversity yet the most threatened by natural disaster. “Only about 7 percent of the nation’s old-growth forests are left, a primary habitat for many endemic species,” according to the DENR.

It said the Philippines ranks 5th in the world in number of plant species —13,500 of these plant species represent 5% of the world’s flora, 9,000 species of flowering plants, 8th in the world list of endemic plants— with 25 genera of the plants endemic to the country.

This is how the plant looks like (See  I hope Filipinos will learn a lesson from my experience.

Let us nurture ecological balance so that our natural treasures together with the Corpse Flower may live on.

The rarest and most beautiful flowers grow in the wild.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mindanawon Abroad is open to Mindanawons living abroad who want to share his/her thoughts on issues they care about. Carolina V. Peralta resides in New York but is actively involved in empowerment of communities in the Philippines. She finished her Masters Degree in Development Management at the Asian Institute of Management as a scholar.  She serves as a member of the Board of Directors of two major non-government organizations and a recipient of a Congressional Award for community service in the USA).