Titan arum prepares to bloom

Nick Lloyd, editor of The NZ Internet Orchid Review, reports that a specimen of Amorphophallus titanum (titan arum) is in bud at the Wintergardens in Auckland Domain – the flowers can grow to more than 3m high and 3m in circumference.

“This will be flowering at some stage in December and is the first flowering for this species in New Zealand,” he says.

The titan arum in flower. Photo: US Botanic Gardens (Wikimedia Commons)

Read more about the plant, also known as the corpse flower because of its scent, on the Kew Gardens website. It is native to Sumatra and the Bonn Botanic Garden website reports that only about 70 plants have flowered “in captivity” since the titan arum was discovered in 1878.

A plant bloomed at the US Botanic Garden Conservatory in Washington DC in July, the first time it had flowered even though the plant was nearly 10 years old. The website records that the public display began on July 11; the titan began to open the evening of July 21; started to close the evening of July 22; and collapsed the evening of July 24.

“The ephemeral nature of the bloom, coupled with its unpredictible flowering schedule, attracted more than 130,000 people to see the plant in person, and more than 650,000 views to the live webstream,” the website says.

Pollen was collected from the male flower and sent to the University of California in Santa Barbara where a female flower was ready to open. This cross-continent pollination, if successful, may produce seeds-corms-plants. The tubers can grow to weigh up to 75kg!

According to Wikipedia, the name “titan arum” was invented by Sir David Attenborough while filming The Private Life of Plants, in which the flowering and pollination of the plant were filmed for the first time. “Sir David felt that constantly referring to the plant as Amorphophallus on a popular TV documentary would be inappropriate.”

A related, but smaller, arum, Amorphophallus konjac (devil’s tongue arum), flowered in the Wintergardens last year.

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3 thoughts on “Titan arum prepares to bloom

  1. Is there a smaller species similar to this plant. Several years ago we had a single flower very like this but only about 80cm high when open. Same structure as in your photo, but maybe with a bit more red-purple than dark purple. I just thought it was an ‘unusual insect-eating’ flower but didn’t take photos unfortunately. Location – Tasman village on a gentle north east slope under cherry trees and an oak tree. We no longer live there.

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