Prodigious Plant Life

Both those kids were gone and the plant was burping like, three seconds later.
Both those kids were gone and the plant was burping three seconds later.

A few months ago I wrote about how awesome plants can be. Well, recent research shows that plants can be incredibly terrifying as well. How can something that can’t even move invoke such terror in your incredibly awesome narrator? Here’s three damn good examples.

Let’s start with that comically over-sized flower up yonder. That’s an example of Rafflesia arnoldii, better known as the CORPSE FLOWER(dun, dun dunnnn!) Found primarily in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra, the Corpse Flower grows to an average of three feet across and weighs as much as 24 pounds. Just a big, colorful flower with an unfortunate name, right?

Wrong! It didn’t come across that name by accident. The big red flower appears when the plant is ready to reproduce, and that’s when a terrible smell starts pouring out of it. The plant releases a scent that smells like rotting flesh to attract flies to pollinate it. As a final insult, the plant can only survive by attaching to and feeding off of other plants, usually the Tetrastigma vine. First it leaches off you and then it starts stinking like crap. I’m usually for preserving rare species, but this one… Yeah, no.

At least the Corpse Flower is relatively unobtrusive(save for the wonderful odor.) Bamboo is a different story altogether. Don’t get me wrong, bamboo has many uses, ranging from culinary to construction. It’s been used to make everything from paper to musical instruments. Nowadays it’s mostly known as an ornamental plant.

They're watching... plotting...
They’re watching… plotting

Part of the reason it’s so popular is also because it’s a hardy plant. Some species can survive down to 18 degrees f. It also grows insanely fast. Some species of bamboo can grow at a rate of 35 inches a day. You can literally go to bed one night, get up in the morning, and find a new three-foot tall bamboo stalk in your garden.

Bamboo can also kill. Rumors persist that bamboo shoots have been used to torture and kill prisoners. The victim is tied to the ground over a bamboo sprout. The plants grow so strongly and swiftly in the first days of their life that it literally stabs its way through the victim in its search for life-giving sun. Bamboo ain’t nothing to mess with, yo.

This final plant makes bamboo look like your slobby stoner college roommate. You know, the one who had the lazy eye? Yeah, that one. Anyway… Let me introduce you to Kudzu, the creeping menace.

That's kudzu... It ate a HOUSE.
That’s kudzu… It ate a HOUSE.

Kudzu was introduced in the United States from Japan as an ornamental bush that could double as a shade plant. It was also marketed as a handy way to stop soil erosion. It stops a lot more than soil erosion, as it turns out. It also stops all native plants from existing. The plant covers and essentially suffocates other plant life, thus killing it. It also grows like your uncle at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Across the US, it’s been growing at an estimated 150,000 acres per year.

Much like a zombie, the key to killing kudzu is to go for the head. Called the crown, it’s the ball of hatred immediately above the roots, and from which the vines of much evil grow. Unlike zombies, the destruction of the crown must be complete. If even a tiny bit of the crown remains, the plant will rise from the dead like a… you know. Maybe it’s time for another Walking Dead spin-off…

Diversions: The Incredible Disappearing Town

Damn potholes
Damn potholes

Welcome to Centralia, Pennsylvania, Population: 7. Mind the roads. They haven’t been cared for in a little while. None of the town has been cared for in some time, really. In fact you’ll find most of the town is missing, having been reduced to rubble and reclaimed by nature.

Incorporated in 1866, the Pennsylvania borough was born out of what would eventually be the cause of its demise: coal mining. Significant coal deposits were found beneath the land where the town would soon be built. Five separate mines were open and operating by the time the town gained official status.

Centralia hit its peak in 1890 with a population of 2,761. Things took a change for the worse with the stock market crash of 1929. Five major coal mines closed down. Those series of events heralded the start of the towns decline. Most of the remaining coal mines closed down by the early 1960’s. It was specifically an event in 1962 that sounded the death knell for the tiny community.

The town hired five volunteer firefighters to clean up the town landfill that May. They finished by setting the site on fire to burn off remaining trash. The fire was not fully extinguished at the end of the burn, as it should have been. This allowed the fire to unknowingly breach the seal on an abandoned mine and enter the mine system.

Did I mention that they put a burn pit right next to an abandoned coal mine? Because they totally put a burn pit right next to the an abandoned coal mine.

Many fingers have been pointed and alternative explanations (and expletives) bandied about over the years. However events unfolded, the end result was a fire that steadily grew out of control deep beneath the town of Centralia. The scope of the problem first came to public attention in 1979 when the temperature of the gasoline tank at the local gas station was measured at 172 degrees f.

Concerns heightened considerably two years later when a twelve year old boy fell into a sinkhole that had opened up in his backyard. His cousin was able to pull him out before he fell the rest of the way in. The hole measured 4 feet wide and 150 feet deep, and was releasing toxic gas. I will not make a joke about this(the boy was okay, though.)

The government acted to relocate residents to other communities starting back in 1984. A small contingent of townspeople refused to acknowledge the danger and refused to relocate. The government of Pennsylvania invoked eminent domain on the borough in 1992 in an effort to force the remaining townspeople to move.

As is the american way, the people of Centralia brought their own lawsuit to allow them to continue living in the town. The suit was settled in 2013, and the remaining 7 residents are free to remain for the rest of their lives. The fires continue to burn below them.

The remains of the town have become somewhat of a tourist mecca in recent years, much to the chagrin of remaining residents and local law enforcement. Various spots in town continue to belch out gas and radiate heat. Various houses not razed by the government have been swallowed by the ground.

“Visitors” have become far more belligerent in recent years, spreading graffiti and trespassing on private property. The state government has warned off people wishing to visit the borough, as have the angry residents. There are plenty of pictures and webpages dedicated to the town, however. Wikipedia is a great place to start looking.