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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Dead Horse in a Parking Lot

Right now, at this very moment, there is a dead horse in the parking lot at the SF Botanical Garden. Okay, maybe not a real dead horse. It’s actually a Helicodiceros muscivorus, which is also called “The Dead Horse Arum.” And there’s only one reason why you’d call such a mighty flower that name, and it’s not how it looks.

dead horse arum

I’ve never actually smelled a dead horse, but I can honestly say that I can now better imagine it because I have smelled a Helicodiceros muscivorus flower.

dead horse arum

The smell is there to attract the plant’s pollinators: carrion flies. As I was photographing this beauty, there was always one around. The spathe and spadix are also full of tiny tendrils that look like animal hair. It’s easy to see how inviting the whole scene would be if you were a fly and into that sorta thing.

dead horse arum

The flower is a thing of beauty. Its base is full of green and white lines that reminded me of another favorite stinky Aroid, Synandrospadix vermitoxicus. And its creme-colored flower with burgundy hair looked almost lifelike.

And this thing is big. Just to get a sense of scale, here’s a photo of it with my phone.

If you want to take a gander of it yourself, just go to the SFBG parking lot on Lincoln at 10th Avenue. After you pull in, it’s on your right. It’s hard to miss. Just follow your gag reflex.

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2 Responses

I’ve always thought it looks like a stick coming out of a dead pig. Have you seen the pictures on the IAS site? The spathe of one of these things was cut open and it was full of maggots–not surprising, but still disgusting.

Posted by Owen on 18 May 2012 @ 4am

!!! This makes me want to get on a plane and head right on over… Glorious! Looking closer and seeing those hairs on the ‘flesh’, I shudder with intrigue!
I figure that people who enjoy these types of plants and flowers are the more interesting people. We’re far more open to the different types of beauty in nature. I am still trying to look for an Arum that’s tolerant of my Zone 6 garden…

Posted by Donna B. on 18 May 2012 @ 11am


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.