Plants in Pop Culture and Titan Arum: The Tale of Big Bucky

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Event Information


January 13th, 2018


9:00am - 11:00am


$10 general admission | Free for members


Kaitlin McIntosh




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“Plants in Pop Culture”

Johanna Oosterwyk is Manager of the DC Smith Instructional Greenhouse at UW-Madison and teaches Ornamental Plants and Greenhouse Cultivation for the Department of Horticulture. Johanna is a dedicated plant geek who will find a way to talk about plants to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

Plants enrich the stories we love: the apple that poisoned Snow White, the rose plucked by Beauty’s father in the Beast’s castle, the life’s work of John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed). But it’s not just in folklore and fairytales that plants play key roles. If we look we will find them in modern day stories too. Blending Botany and Literature we’ll take a look at some of our culture’s most popular tales and explore the ways plants are used to augment the story as plot devices, set pieces, characters, and even villains.

“Titan Arum: The Tale of Big Bucky”

Mo Fayyaz recently retired after serving as a distinguished Faculty Associate and Director of Univeristy of Wisconsin- Madison Botany Greenhouses and Garden for 33 years. He is the Cofounder of both the “Association of Education and Research Greenhouse Curators” and “Madison Orchid Guild”. Most notably, Mo orchestrated both the public viewing and educational activities concerning the impressive blooming of the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) at the UW-Madison Greenhouse in the summer of 2001.

This talk commemorates the 2001 blooming of the Titan Arum at the University of Wisconsin Botany Department Greenhouses. Amorphophallus titanum is big, stinky and rarely blooms in cultivation, but nonetheless is truly magnificent.

This Sumatran plant has the largest non-branched inflorescence among flowering plants. With its huge, elongated spadix and beautiful unfurled spathe, the mature Titan Arum inflorescence can reach a height of over 10 feet tall and open to a diameter of three to 4 feet wide. When the ruffled spathe fully opens, the plant emits a carrion odor repulsive to human, but to its pollinators – carrion beetles, flesh flies and sweat bees – this perfume is highly attractive. On June 7, 2001 the first time ever in the state of Wisconsin, the UW – Botany Greenhouses ‘ Titan Arum successfully bloomed! Its inflorescence had grown to a height of 8 feet 5 inches.

During 30 days of public view, before and after blooming, “Big Bucky” drew more than 25,000 visitors. The Titan Arum web-cam became enormously popular with Web surfers around the world. The UW – Madison Division of Information Technology staff estimated the web server received more than 30 million hits that day, setting a record for internet traffic at the university. I was fascinated by this beast, and its blooming was the best present from the plant kingdom to start the new millennium.

Event Location

Horticulture Building
1575 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706