Titan arum

The Titan arum is a flower of epic proportions. It can grow up to 3 metres in height and is the largest (unbranched) inflorescence, or flower, in the world. When in bloom, it generates heat equal to the body temperature of humans and releases a pungent odour to attract pollinators. Its scientific name, for those of you with a penchant for ancient languages, is a bit of a giggle – Amorphophallus titanium.

This provocative plant produces a large leaf for optimum photosynthesis every year which can grow up to six metres tall and five metres wide but won’t bloom until the corm has stored enough energy. In fact, in cultivation, this flower can take up to ten years to bloom; this would test the patience of even the most green-fingered enthusiasts.

When I visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, as part of Becky Jo’s Great British Tour, I was fortunate enough to see a Titan arum in all its glory. The people responsible for cultivating these gargantuan plants, in their various botanical sanctuaries across the globe, can wait years and years to see the spectacle I have stumbled upon… but I guess some things in life are worth waiting for.

I spent most of yesterday reversing. The narrow lanes of Cornwall, which remind me of the tiny country lanes I used to take to school when I passed my driving test, cause drivers to come face-to-face with no space for passing. At which stage, someone will have to yield and reverse as quickly as they can to the most recent passing point to allow the car in front to pass, before the cars behind catch up and cause more problems.

My progress was heavy going, especially because I am usually the one who volunteers to reverse. Even in Groggy the campervan, I would rather offer to back up than take the risk that the bonnet opposite mine belongs to a driver who is nervous or inept!

There were a few moments when I genuinely considered whether the pain of turning around and fighting my way back the way I’d come would outweigh the grim reality of pursuing with my quest. Despite my frustrations and the trudging advancements that felt like a case of one-step-forward-two-steps-back, the views when I reached my intended destination were simply breath-taking… a little persistence and I was greatly rewarded for my efforts.

This trip in my campervan, which in turn is a continuation of my intermittent travels around the world, has been a lifetime in the making. That’s not to say that I’ve waited my whole life to purchase a 1989 motorhome and circumnavigate Great Britain, but rather my appreciation for the experiences I’ve had thus far is greatly enhanced by the life experiences I’d had beforehand.

If I had attempted this journey at an earlier stage in my life, or under different circumstances, I am convinced it would not have had the same impact.

I am like the Titan arum (not because I’m 3 metres tall and attract carrion pollinators) but because I have lain dormant in my underground corm and absorbed as much from life as possible –including a few wrong turns, time spent in passing points simply waiting, periods when I have felt like I’ve been stuck in reverse, and stages when progress has been desperately laboured –waiting for conditions to be perfect.

I am not out to ‘find myself’, since I was never lost. Someone close to me once said –you don’t know who you are yet –but they were mistaken. I know exactly who I am, and that person is changing all the time because it’s impossible (and unhealthy) to remain unchanged after new experiences, surprises, achievements, acquaintances, journeys, events, relationships and discoveries. I am learning all the time and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

As I am, and as things stand, I couldn’t be happier in Groggy and I’m grateful to the people and events who/which have helped me get to where I am. Some things, like the rare (and odorous) bloom of the Titan arum, are worth waiting for and can be better appreciated with age…. But not necessarily maturity!

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