Brian O’Brien of Gustavus Adolphus College has sent along an important message for those of you who like big flowers that stink of rotting meat—they’ve got one.
In 1993 I obtained seeds of the plant Amorphophallus titanum (common names: Titan Arum; Corpse Flower) from Dr. James Symon, who had made a trip to Sumatra to collect seeds. The plant is considered to be endangered in the wild, and, at the time, was being dug up on a massive scale for use by a commercial concern for the manufacture of an exotic cosmetic formulation.
Amorphophallus titanum is one of the great wonders of the living world. It produces the largest known inflorescence of any flowering plant, and is thought to be pollinated by beetles that are normally attracted to rotting flesh. These insects are attracted by the fragrance of the inflorescence, which is known to strikingly and strongly resemble that of rotting flesh. I cannot confirm the nature of the fragrance personally, but hope to be able to do so soon. Our largest, most vigorous plant of Amorphophallus titanum is currently growing a shoot that we think has a good chance of being an inflorescence. The alternative possibility is that the shoot will produce a leaf (if so, it will probably be one of the largest leaves ever produced in Minnesota, exceeded only by the leaves of some of the palms in the Como Conservatory in St. Paul).
Amorphophallus is genetically related to familiar plants such as Callas and Jacks-in-the-Pulpit. I will not further describe it here, but will instead use a cliche – “A picture is worth a thousand words.” See this link for numerous photos of Amorphophallus titanum in flower: http://www.flickr.com/groups/titanarum/pool/
We now have a webcam set up for our plant; the web image is renewed at five-minute intervals. The camera is currently taking images close to the plant, so that some details of the patterns on the shoot can be seen. We plan to move the camera day-to-day so as to show the diversity of patterns.
We have also set up a blog for the plant. I have posted numerous photos of various activities such as un-potting and measurement on the blog, along with further information on Amorphophallus titanum. Please feel free to read the entries, view the photos (the thumbnails are linked to larger images) and make comments. The blog link is: http://blogs.gac.edu/arboretum/category/titan-arum/ Each blog entry contains a link to the webcam.
A stop-motion video of the initial growth of the shoot can be seen on the GusTV Events page It may also be downloaded directly: https://gustv.gac.edu/pastevents/titanarum-Mar28-Apr18.mp4
Further photos of our Amorphophallus titanum, along with photos of its relatives in the Gustavus greenhouse collection, can be seen at: