Saturday, June 25, 2016

Our Local Amorphophallus Titanum

Above, the plant on June 15th at 42" tall.  
 A local nurseryman has been growing several Amorphophallus titanum corms in his polyhouse for nearly a decade.  His first flower opened yesterday.  This plant in bloom has been a popular attraction at botanical gardens for decades.  The flower brings in visitors who normally have no interest in plants, because it's odd looking, rare, huge, and stinks. 

When not in bloom, the Amorphophallus grows a single leaf on a strong stem for each growing season.  It sheds the leaf and sits dormant for about four months.  The plant is native to western Sumatra rain forests and is cold-hardy only to 55F.  This local plant is about 7 feet tall;  heights of 20 feet have been recorded.  A bloom-sized corm may weigh more than 100 lbs, while very mature corms may weigh more than double that.
 The stem of the leaf and the cover (sepal?) of the flower have the same lichen-like spots.  The petal-like, pleated spathe is a fresh lime green on the outside...
 ...and a meaty burgundy on the inside.   The spadix is hollow.
 The actual flowers occur at the base of the spadix in two rows: a row of female flowers and a row of male flowers.  Each row is fertile at different times to avoid self-pollination, although the Huntington was able to pollinate one of its specimens as a self and obtain seeds.  
So, did it stink?  There was a musky odor, not overwhelming or particularly disgusting.  The local flower reached only 48" tall, but it is still a younger plant.  The record height for a flower is 10 feet 2.25 inches (3.1 meters).  

A smaller, more cold hardy (to zone 6) species in the same genus is A. konjac.

To see one within a ten minute drive, without waiting in line among crowds of people was a delight and a real treat.

16 comments:

  1. Impresionante, además paso a paso, felicidades. Un saludo desde Plantukis

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    1. La planta ha recibido tierno cuidado durante muchos años. Un jardinero de gran paciencia!

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  2. Beautiful photos of this blooming Amorphophallus, never seen it in bloom. A stinking beauty!

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    1. It was really quite beautiful--more than just an oddity.

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    2. Saw one at the Huntington last year and it was a plant oddity to behold even if your not a plant geek.....it was cool

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    3. Very cool indeed! I imagine the Huntington specimen was even bigger.

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  3. Ah, beautiful photos – and this one is a beauty too, I saw it in flower in Kew Botanical garden in 2005! It does stink though! You were just lucky with your timing not to smell it– the titan turns the scent on and off for some hours at the time so it doesn’t smell all the time – this is to attract pollinators, but not to waste energy on sending out scent all the time. Clever! And it doesn’t really start to smell until it is ready for pollination, when the flower is fully out. I smelled it – I would compare it to the smell of a dead animal you might stumble upon outside….no wonder they call it the rotting flesh plant. But the sheer size of it makes it a spectacular plant and the flower itself is absolutely beautiful – for the 2-3 days it lasts. Thanks for sharing, lovely to see it again :-)

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    1. I was lucky to see it, but now you describe the scent I was lucky to miss Peak Stink. Quite an amazing plant in all respects. Happy you liked the photos.

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  4. It IS impressive! I've yet to see one close-up. Are to plastic 6-packs at the plant's base there to keep critters out of the pot?

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    1. I think the plastic packs mean "just watered", or "don't water". The polyhouse keeps out critters.

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  5. Should give it a go growing one, spectacular both in leaf and in bloom!

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    1. I am sure you could. Keep the corm warm, even during dormancy.

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  6. Wow - that pleated spathe reminded me first of those starched collars of long-ago fashion, and then - as it turned burgundy on the inside - I envisioned a fabulous gown on a Parisian runway. What a great plant for fashion inspiration!

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    1. There you go, yes. Haute couture, a spotted fabric overlaying burgundy silk pleated inside an ivory velvet...

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  7. This goes far beyond being a mere curiosity...no wonder it attracts thrill-seekers as well as flies.

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    1. It's weird and beautiful at the same time.

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