The Titan Arum

First written and posted on 18th May, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

I’m very excited to let you know that I have been lucky enough to see the Titan Arum in flower for the first time! We have had one at Eden, in the Rainforest Biome, for the past week, just waiting for it to come into flower and it did – right on cue! The Amorphophallus titanum (commonly known as the Titan Arum) is one of the most unusual and incredible plants known to man, with a blooming period which is very rare and almost impossible to predict. Titan Arum, closed

It hardly ever flowers in cultivation, taking six years to grow, however Tim Grigg (the tropical horticulturist at Eden’s nursery) has managed to do just that – he has a remarkable success rate with them and has produced seven for display in the Rainforest Biome over the years. Yes, seven! Tim has to hand-pollinate the individual flowers which takes an extraordinary amount of skill, patience and knowledge. Kudos to Tim, he’s the man!

What makes the Titan Arum look so impressive isn’t the flowers themselves but the massive inflorescence which is a flowering structure that consists of a spathe (a collar-like structure) wrapped around a spadix (a flower-bearing spike). At the base of the spadix, within the protective chamber formed by the spathe, is a band of creamy coloured male flowers above a ring of pink female flowers. When they are ready for pollination the spadix heats up and emits a nauseating stench like rotting flesh to attract insects to pollinate it, hence its other common name the Corpse Flower. It absolutely stinks! Titan Arum, opening!

I took photos of the Titan Arum when it was closed and after it opened – it only stays open for 48 hours so the window of opportunity to see it in bloom is very short but which also makes the experience even more special. I did some research for this post and found out a few interesting facts which I didn’t know about the Titan Arum previously, like:

It is related to the plant Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) found in British hedgerows.

The inflorescence rises from a tuber, a swollen underground stem modified to store food for the plant. It can weigh 70 kg or more and is the largest such structure known in the plant kingdom.

Growing up to over 3 metres high, it is one of the largest flowers in the world. The current world record for the largest grown in cultivation is held by Winnipesaukee Orchids in Gilford, New Hampshire, USA: their specimen grew to a whopping 3.1 metres!

It is native to rainforests of Western Sumatra in Indonesia, and is therefore endangered as its habitat is under threat from deforestation.

I know the Titan Arum isn’t to everyone’s taste but I hope you enjoyed reading about it anyway 🙂

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