My Adventures With the Dragon Flower

In full bloom

I have always admired the colorful tropical plants and saddened that I could not grow them in Michigan. One day, I was looking through my garden catalog and saw a picture of a flower that looked tropical, and it was rated for Michigan. I was so excited that I didn’t do my research; I just went ahead and ordered them.
First signs of flowers
In the spring, the plant looked Ok until the first sign of its flower. I was very excited and didn’t know what to make of it.




When it finally bloomed, it was a big surprise. You could see the flower from miles away, OK maybe not miles but definitely from across the street.



I also noticed that flies really liked the flower. Strangers would stop and ask me about it. It was definitely a conversation starter. I did however; notice a bad smell around the flower. That is when I got curious and decided to look it up on the internet.





The dragon flower is called Dracunculus vulgaris (aka Arum dracunculus) also, Dragon Arum, Voodoo Lily, Ragons, Snake Lily, Black Arum, Black Dragon, Dragonwort, & Stink Lily. In Greece it is called Drakondia, the dragon or serpent being the long spadex inside the enormous maroon-lipped spathe.



It is native to the Balkans, to Mediterranean Europe, Greece, the isle of Crete & the Aegean Islands, all the way to Southwest Turkey. Although it looks tropical, it really is not. It spreads by self-seeding and by bulb offsets.

It turns out that the smell is to attract carrion-eating pollinators. The plant traps the flies in its own inflorescence for one night and at the next day it releases them with a load of pollen. The smell lasts a couple of days and lucky me I planted sort of in the back of my backyard garden. Needless to say, you should not plant this by your front door.




So if you are looking for an exotic looking flower that will bring out even the shiest neighbors I say go for it. Just be careful not to break the stem, when they first come out in the spring.




Sources
Wikipedia
Paghat's Garden
Dave's Garden