Adventures with Lisa, Frank & Daisy Dewdrop

The Stink Plants
September 1, 2006, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden

The Stink Plants

Spring is full of surprises. I am still watching each day for crocus and daffodil to surprise me with their upshoots, but inside the house, we did have quite a surprise.

Last summer, Don and Willalea Kelley invited me to their home to view and do a story on what Don calls his “stinking plant.” The plant is commonly called “The Sacred Lily of India,” but is also known as “Rattlesnake Plant,” “Devil’s Tongue,” “VooDoo Lily” or “Stink Plant.” The scientific name is “Amorphophallus rivieri.”

I visited the Kelley’s home to view a five-foot tall, burgundy waxy funnel with a large stamen in the middle. It was outside, in the yard, and I could smell a slight odor, which seemed of little consequence to me. I thought the name “Sacred Lily of India” was most poetic, and in my mind, assigned that name to the plant.

Early last fall, Don asked me if I would like to have a few of these amazing plants. “Yes!” I said, and arrived at his house the same day. To say he had several to give away would be a huge understatement. For me, he had a whole box of them, with tubers ranging from an inch in diameter to nearly six inches.

Immediately, an excellent idea came to mind.

At Christmas, I am prone to give gift baskets. I fill them with home-canned jellies, relishes, etc., and then toss in some candy canes, or other things to personalize the basket. As a gift, the plant was unique and special! Something uncommon and long-lasting! So, this past year, all those I know who garden got a tissue paper wrapped Amorphophallus rivieri tuber in their basket, with a label card saying, “put in a cool, dry place until spring.”

I put mine under my kitchen sink.

At February’s town council meeting, Don Kelley asked me about my plants. I told him how I had shared them with others, still tickled at my resourcefulness–with the special gifts I shared. On the way home, I thought, “Why did Don ask me that? I won’t really be even thinking about those plants until late March or early April.”

At least that’s what I thought.

My neighbor Becky was the first to call.

“Uh, Lisa?”


“You know that plant-thing you gave me?”


“Well, we put it in the closet at Christmas, and, well, it’s growing.”

I assumed then that Becky’s closet simply wasn’t “cool and dry enough.” Then, I came home one day, and Frank was working under the kitchen sink.

“You might want to do something with these things,” he said.

I guess my sink cabinet isn’t “cool and dry” enough either. Five lilies had begun growing. One grew up to the bottom of the sink bowl, then turned at a right angle to the wall, then straight up along the wall. Another had grown sideways, through the handle-hole of the box I had them in. Another was cockeyed, and had grown among the plumbing.

I smelled them. Nothing.

So I put them in pots in the corner of a basement room where there’s a constant draft. They continued to grow–inches a day.

Then Judy called at work.

“Okay, so here’s the thing,” she said (she often starts her calls that way). “That plant-thing you gave me is growing.”

I advised she do what I had done. Put it in a pot–with or without dirt–in a cool place, and wait until spring.

That night, I came home from work and Frank was cleaning out one of the refrigerators. We have three.

“Something in here is rotten,” he said. Knowing our refrigerators, I assumed he was right.

When he was finished cleaning all three refrigerators, the smell was still there . . . And the little light bulb above my head came on.

“Hey, I bet it’s those plants,” I said, heading to the corner to sniff. I got about halfway across the room when the putrid scent hit me like a ball bat–and they weren’t even yet in full bloom.

“Oh! Ugh! Oh!”

“Put them outside!” Frank said.

“I can’t! It’s too cold!”

Gagging all the while, I moved them one by one into the laundry room–the least used room in the house. A room that is, by no means, cool or dry. Thus, the flowers flourished, and bloomed. Within a day, their aroma reached the neighboring bathroom.

Frank tried reason again, “Lisa, those plants! You can’t leave them in there. They have to go outside. How about in the out building?”

“I can’t. They’ll turn to mush,” I said. “Spring’s coming, I’ll spray some Lysol.” I made a mental note to contact those who I’d given plants, but couldn’t specifically recall them all.

Yesterday, the smell reached the kitchen, and Frank resorted to wandering around shaking his head and muttering four-letter words under his breath. I was thinking of my friends, searching their homes for the source of a putrid smell.

I said aloud, “Don said if you cut the middle stamen out, they won’t stink so bad,” finally admitting what had to be done–even though I didn’t want to mark the visual beauty of the bloom.

Frank had a knife in his hands within seconds.

That vicious act helped a little, but it has been too cold outside to air out the front room, bathroom and laundry room, so a scent still lingers.

This morning we had company. A long-standing, coffee-drinking friend, Kenny’s visits are often spent in the kitchen.

“Somethin’ die in here?” he asked.

Yes, Amorphophallus rivieri is known by many names, and this morning, Frank came up with a new one.

But it can’t be printed here.


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