Saturday, 6 April 2013

Devil's Tongue Appears in Fernery

While the temperature outside is still struggling to keep up with the calendar, strange blooms are appearing in the humid heart of the glasshouses. Accompanied by an extraordinary stench, Amorphophallus rivieri has produced an inflorescence.

Konjac lurking in the fernery

Also known as konjac and devil's tongue, A. rivieri has been cultivated for centuries in China and Japan. Traditionally the tubers are used to make flour for noodles or are cooked as a vegetable. More recently they have been cultivated for the extraction of mannose, which is used as an ingredient in diabetic foods. It is closely related to the Titan Arum which caused a sensation after its discovery by Beccari in 1878 and produces an odour described by writer Deni Bown as "floral tear gas". Luckily for us, Amorphophallus rivieri is slightly less potent!

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