The blooming of Titan Arum [Amorphophallus titanium] – also known as Corpse Flower – is a rare event in the plant kingdom. Before I proceed further, let me just clarify why it is called “corpse” flower. The flower rarely blooms, but when they do, the plant produces a strong, pungent odor to attract pollinators. The stinky smell is likened to that of corpse, so the name corpse flower. For more details about the titan arum, please scroll down.
Chicago Botanic Garden has been tending to about 8 titan arums for more than a decade. In August, 2015; one of them came very close to blooming. It was dubbed as “Spike”. The flower-bud reached the height of about 6 feet [full size of bud is about 6 to 8 feet], and developed the spathe, and was almost about to open-up and release the pungent stench. However, the spathe failed to open and complete the bloom cycle!! The flower bulb [corm] did not have enough energy to open up. However, the anticipation of its bloom, created a lot of buzz… and I, like many, was incredibly interested in this rare event, and visited the garden thrice to see Spike.
POST SCRIPT: A month after “Spike” failed to bloom, another corpse flower, nicknamed “Alice the Amorphophallus” bloomed at Chicago Botanic Garden. For more, click here.. ..
Chicago Botanic Garden has been raising this particular titan arum , nicknamed as “Spike”, since 2003.
In August, 2015 there were news that Spike is about to bloom.
I visited Spike three time: August 17, August 23 and August 30.
Dates are important in this case, to show the different stages of its development.
Monday, August 17, 2015. Titan Arum “Spike” was approaching about 5 feet height.
Tuesday, August 24, It reached the height of 68 ” [68 inches = 5.6 feet]. It was ready to open up.
Sadly, Spike failed to bloom.
Sunday, August 30, the flower was cut open by the staff members and exhibited in the conservatory.
Location: Semitropical Greenhouse in the Regenstein Center at Chicago Botanic Garden.
August 30, 2015: Spike failed to bloom. The bulb did not have enough energy to complete the bloom cycle. The flower structure had stopped maturing, and the spathe did not open and no was no stinky fragrance. On Sunday, August 30, the staff cut open the flower.. and which was put on display in the conservatory.
Spike Sensation: More than 50,000 people visited Spike in the month of August, and at least 360,000 people visited Spike’s page on the garden’s website. A live cam was set up to record its daily progress, and I was one of those checking it out multiple times a day!
The real flowers – at the base of the spandix, can be easily seen now, as the spathe has been removed. The red flowers are female and the cream colored are male flowers.
POST SCRIPT: A month after “Spike” failed to bloom, another corpse flower named “Alice the Amorphophallus” bloomed at Chicao Botanic Garden. For more on Alice, click here..
TITAN ARUM – FLOWER STRUCTURE:
The structure of titan arum consists of a tall spadix (flower structure) wrapped by a spathe (a frilly leaf). The spadix rises from a corm (a type of underground tuber or bulb that can weigh more than 100 pounds). The true flowers (about 750 female and 450 to 5,000 male) are located in two rings at the bottom of the spadix.
Going in a bit more detail, the structure consists of: corm, flower-bud, spandex, spathe, fruit and leaves.
CORM: is the giant underground tuber that is the power behind the flower.
FLOWER-BUD: The flower-bud can take about 2 weeks for the bud to reach its full size of 6 to 8 feet.
SPIKE/ SPANDIX: The titan arum’s flower is actually a flowering spike, called an inflorescence. The spike or spandix support the much tinier flowers, both male and female, in rings at the base.
SPATHE: It is not the petal but the frilly modified leaf. When closed it protects the flowers inside. When open, it attracts the pollinators.
FRUIT: It a titan arum is pollinated, it produces red-orange berries atop the stalk left after flower called peduncle.
LEAF: It has about 8 to 15 feet tall tree-like leaf, which collects sun’s energy.
Some Fun Facts about Titan Arum
Fun Facts: Amorphophallus titanium / Titan arum / Corpse Flower:
Why the strange name “Corpse” flower?
The blooming of Amorphophallus titanium – also known as Corpse Flower – is a rare event in the plant kingdom. The flower rarely blooms, but when they do, the plant produces a strong, pungent odor to attract pollinators. The stinky smell is likened to that of corpse, so the name corpse flower.
Is corpse flower, really a flower?
Answer is NO! Technically Amorphophallus titanium is NOT a flower. Rather, it’s an inflorescence – or cluster of flowers. In fact, it is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. Interestingly, the largest single flower on earth is Rafflesia arnoldi – also from the rainforests of Sumatra – and is also called the Corpse Flower.
Where are the cluster of flowers located?
The structure of titan arum consists of a tall spadix [flower structure] wrapped by a spathe [a frilly leaf]. The spadix rises from a corm [a type of underground tuber or bulb that can weigh more than 100 pounds]. The true flowers [about 750 female and 450 to 5,000 male] are located in two rings at the bottom of the spadix.
Some other fun facts about Amorphophallus titanium:
Extremely slow to grow: Takes about 8 to 10 years before the first bloom.
Extremely fast to flower: Takes about 2 weeks for the flower bud to mature. Once it opens, the full bloom cycle is very short – only one to two days. The bloom typically opens between mid-afternoon and late evening and remains open all night. Most flowers begin to wilt within 12 hours, but some have been known to remain open for 24 to 48 hours.
Extreme stench: The smell has been variously described as that of rotting flesh, rancid meat, rotting animal carcass, old dirty socks, and even the smell of death itself, which accounts for the plant’s common name, the corpse flower.
Natural pollinators: Dung beetles, flesh flies and other carnivorous insects.
Natural Habitat: Native to the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, which is its only natural habitat.
The Science behind the stink, color and temperature, was explained by floriculturist Tim Pollak, in an interview by Alina Bradford of Live Science.. [Corpse Flower: Facts About the Smelly Plant]..click here..
There is a good reason for the plant’s strong odor. “It all comes down to science,” said Tim Pollak, outdoor floriculturist at the Chicago Botanic Garden. “The smell, color and even temperature of corpse flowers are meant to attract pollinators and help ensure the continuation of the species.” The dung beetles, flesh flies and other carnivorous insects are the primary pollinators of this type of flower. These insects typically eat dead flesh. The smell and the dark burgundy color of the corpse flower are meant to imitate a dead animal to attract these insects. Corpse flowers are also able to warm up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7 Celsius) to further fool the insects,” Pollak told Live Science. “The insects think the flower may be food, fly inside, realize there is nothing to eat, and fly off with pollen on their legs. This process ensures the ongoing pollination of the species. Once the flower has bloomed and pollination is complete, the flower collapses.”
For more on Amorphophallus titanium / Corpse Flower.. click here..
Story of corpse flower “Spike” at Chicago Botanic Garden.. click here..
Corpse Flower “Alice the Amorphophallus” at Chicago Botanic Garden.. click here..
So what is this Amorphophallus titanium – Corpse Flower – everyone is talking about.. click here..