Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trip Report: Botanical statues of Jakarta

Jakarta is the capital of the diverse islands (more than 17,000 of them) of Indonesia.  At one time, Indonesia was ruled by the Netherlands.  They won their freedom once more on August 17, 1945.  Their historical struggles and ultimate victory are remembered with the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta.

The night scene around the Monas
This monument includes a 433 foot spire, capped in gold foil, a wall of bas relief carvings telling the history of Indonesia, and a museum.  This is all surrounded by a large park that is well-utilized by the people of Jakarta. On my daytime visit there were hundreds of people around, marching, jogging, and exercising in groups.  On my evening visit there were even more people present.  Mostly they were families with small children riding scooters or flying light-up helicopters, but there were also teenagers hanging out, doing what teenagers do, and vendors selling interesting things like mini-bajaj toys.  Yes, I bought one.  Yes, it is my coolest souvenir.

Bajaj on the streets of Jakarta
My toy bajaj that makes the authentic tut-tut sound when you pull it by a string
The gardens surrounding the bas relief wall at the center of the monument contain some rather curious tributes to the natural wonders of Indonesia.  In terms of Guinness World Records, Indonesia wins several prizes for botanical marvels.  The "largest flower" prize can be broken into at least three different categories, and Indonesia gets to claim two of them.

Amorphophallus titanum
Amorphophallus titanum - photo courtesy wikipedia
Amorphophallus titanum - also known as the Titan Arum, Carrion Flower or Corpse Flower - is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the known world.  It is not a single flower, but hundreds of flowers, all contained on that one large spadix.  "Inflorescence" means a collection of flowers.  "Unbranched" means that the flowers are all contained on the same structure.  These plants are native only to western Sumatra, the largest island of Indonesia.  [For the record, the largest branched inflorescence belongs to a palm tree, which occurs in India and Sri Lanka.]

Amorphophallus titanum statue
The gardens around the monument contain 28 statues of the Amorphophallus titanum and they are all to scale.

Rafflesia arnoldii
Rafflesia arnoldii - photo courtesy wikipedia. Author: ma_suska
Rafflesia arnoldii - also known as the Corpse Flower - is the largest single flower in the known world.  It occurs only in western Sumatra as well.  Just like the Titan Arum, it derives its common name by smelling like a decomposing body to attract corpse flies.

Rafflesia glass sculpture
The gardens contain 8 glass sculptures of the interesting Rafflesia flowers.

Four Amorphophallus titanum statues in view
So here's to art and to honoring your botanical marvels!

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