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Madison and the Giant Pumpkin – Pic of the Week

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A large, irregularly-shaped pumpkin and vines sit on the sidewalk outside the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress.
Dill’s Atlantic Giant at the James Madison Memorial Building [Photo by Shawn Miller]
One day, when I was taking my morning stroll into work, I saw unusual vegetation in our gardens outside the Madison Building. There was this gigantic pumpkin resting on the little corner of the sidewalk garden. I mean unusual of course, since you would expect a pumpkin of this magnitude to be growing in an open field or in a farm, not in the middle of Capitol Hill. However, I enjoyed seeing it there. Every morning as I walked into work, I would stop to admire the giant pumpkin that seemed to grow out of nowhere.

Later in the week, while in a meeting with Donna, she mentioned that National Pumpkin Day was coming up, and I knew exactly what I wanted to write about for my next post. Then I got to thinking, how could a pumpkin ever relate to law? I decided to figure that detail out later. That same day I went outside to take a good picture of the pumpkin when I met, by pure coincidence, the planter of this giant pumpkin, Rob Gimpel, Lead Gardener for Architect of the Capitol. He took the time to explain to me and our intern, Tiffany, where this type of pumpkin came from and shared some neat tricks on how to grow one ourselves.

This pumpkin is known as a Dill’s Atlantic Giant and it is the type of pumpkin farmers grow to win contests at state fairs. In recent times, nearly every prizewinning pumpkin comes from a derivative of Howard Dill’s work with the Atlantic Giant. Dill, whose operation is based in Canada, experimented for over 30 years with a variety of Mammoth pumpkins until he was able to create this beast fruit, which earned him the biggest pumpkin in the world four years in a row (1979 – 1981). He is still the only person to achieve that streak. In 1981, Dill received a Guinness World Record for his creation, weighing in at 493.5 pounds. Since then, the weight record for pumpkins has more than quadrupled. The current world record for the largest fruit was set in 2016, and it’s an offspring of the Atlantic Giant. It was grown in Belgium and weighed a whopping 2,624.6 pounds.

Atlantic Giant pumpkins could gain 50 pounds a day if they’re growing in peak season, since they are made of 90 percent water. According to plant physiologist Jessica Savage, these giant pumpkins have approximately the same sugar content as their smaller cousins, but they’re better at moving it around, which explains their massive daily growth. A normal pumpkin plant will offspring a few fruits from the same seed. However, the composition of the Atlantic Giant is designed in such way that all the fruits that the plant produces will create only one giant offspring.

You may still be wondering how I related an article about a giant pumpkin to law. As it turns out, the Dill’s Atlantic Giant is not registered as patented, so people are able to grow this type of pumpkin however they please. The name, however, is currently trademarked in Canada and has been registered there since 1995. Dill’s Atlantic Giant has not been registered at the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office, but people all over the country attribute the name to this specific plant. This variety of pumpkin was also registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Variety Protection Office in 1986. The Plant Variety Protection Act was enacted in 1970 and provides legal intellectual property rights protection to breeders of new varieties of plants.

One day, my beloved pumpkin, which I have now named Madison, just disappeared from the bushes. I was very sad to not see her on my morning strolls anymore. Luckily, she’s back! She’s currently on display here at the Library of Congress, in the lobby of the Madison Building. I hope that everyone can come see Madison while the fall display is here, and I hope that we can have more vegetation adorning our magnificent Library of Congress.

Happy National Pumpkin Day!

Comments (2)

  1. Thank you for all the information and your curiosity and sentiment for the pumpkin that grew in the garden on the side of the Madison building. I had seen it too and wondered about it. I’ll check it out in the display! Happy autumn!

  2. today it became a jack-o-lantern! If only I could attach a picture to this post!

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