Years of dreaming and waiting and some luck have finally led up to this moment! The Amorphophallus titanum has arrived! “That’s great!” you might say…. “but why do we care?”. Well, I’ll tell you why! Amorphophallus titanum, otherwise known as a Titan Arum or the Corpse Flower, is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world! What’s an inflorescence? It’s essentially a group or cluster of flowers arranged on one single stem. Some say it’s basically the largest flower in the world, I don’t have the facts to back that up but if helps you understand why I’m excited then that’s why. It’s huge! … that is it will be if I can get it to flower. A titan can take anywhere between 7-12 years to produce ONE bloom. Originally it was thought that they die after that one bloom, but that’s since been proven false. Though how many times they can actually bloom I think is still up in the air, as you can imagine something that takes this much time and is this huge is not easy to study!
But why call it the corpse flower? Because of its lovely bouquet! Since it does take a lot of leaf power and time to build up to one single bloom you have to make that bloom count. When blooming the titan releases the odor of a rotting animal in order to attract insects and flesh eaters from miles around. These insects then dive inside and pollinate it, hopefully enabling it to create a stalk full of fruit that each have a seed inside, and thus completing the circle of life. *cue music*
Native to the rainforests of Sumatra, the first titan was described by man in 1878 by an Italian botanist. The first cultivated flowering occurred in 1889 at Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London and the first US flowering occurred at the New York Botanic Gardens in 1937. After that we didn’t really hear much about the corpse flower because they were so rare and so hard to cultivate. In 1998 ‘Archie’, a titan at the University of Missouri – St. Louis was the first to bloom in the US since 1939. Since that time bloomings have become slightly more frequent thanks to the work of botanic gardens across the US and the world working together to spread the viable seeds and figure out how to cultivate these. It is now estimated that there are 3-5 flowering events each year worldwide. Hubby and I have been lucky that in the past four years we have actually seen 3 different titans bloom! The first one was what started my fascination with this plant and as my indoor garden grew and I thought about it more and more. Recently I discovered that a favorite online plant seller had a limited quantity that they were selling from some seeds that they got from a botanical garden in California. Thus here we are! I hope you enjoy me documenting this journey, good and bad, and if you have any thoughts please get in touch!
Above is a photo I took of ‘Hunter’ who bloomed at the Missouri Botanical Gardens July 28, 2014. The bloom itself can reach up to 10 feet tall!