Audrey, the Carrion Flower

I’ve visited the California Carnivores nursery in Sebastopol several times in the past. It was always an interesting field trip for my children where we learned the United State is home to the widest variety of carnivorous plants in the world; including such species as Venus flytraps, sundews, butterworts, American pitcher plants, cobra plants and bladderworts. California is also home to several species of sundews, bladderworts, a species of butterwort, and the cobra plant.

Carnivorous plants grow in acidic wetlands, sandy deserts, and even on bare rock. Lacking soil nutrients, they supplement their diet by capturing and eating prey. They employ cunning strategies:  snap traps, fly paper traps, pitfall traps, suction traps, and lobster traps.

Recently, our local newspapers fanned the excitement of an unusual event about to take place at the nursery. After ten years of tender care, Audrey, a Titan Arum raised from a seed was about to bloom. Though the plant was named after the human-devouring plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” – this Audrey is not carnivorous.  I made three trips to see this native of the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, noting the rise of her yellow inflorescence (5 feet!) before the final unfurling of her spectacular green and maroon petals.

And then, what everyone was waiting for: the stench that can only be described as dead rat, dead fish meets stinky cheese, and rotting flesh.  No wonder the Titan Arum is more commonly called the “carrion” or “corpse flower”.  Audrey’s show only lasted a few days. In the wild, flies swarm and act as pollinators, but this Titan Arum dwells in a very competitive environment, a tent-like hothouse filled with a vast variety of truly carnivorous plants. Not a single fly made it to the fern dais on which Audrey was enthroned.

Audrey made me think about our senses, especially olfactory. Some scents make us want to draw back with a grimace; others make us want to come closer, lean in, inhale.

God created our senses and employed them all to enrich our worship of Him.  He set down the formula for the incense burned in the Temple, a foreshadowing of His Son’s offering on the cross and the lives and prayers of all who would love and follow Jesus down through the ages.

Scripture says believers carry the fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one an aroma from death to death (like the carrion flower) to the other, an aroma from life to life (like the lovely scented rose of Sharon from the soil of the Holy Land).