Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum, Corpse Flower)

The Titan Arum is a truly remarkable plant. Both its inflorescence and its leaf structure are extremely unique and enormous. The stem of the leaf structure is just as green as the leaflets at the top of the plant. At the center of this plant is a huge corm, ranging from 25-75 kilograms in mature specimens, rarely up to 90 kilograms. The plant usually enters the “leaf structure” phase first, presumably to gather nutrients from photosynthesis. After some time, usually a year or two, senescence occurs. This programmed death of part of the plant takes all available nutrients from the leaf structure before allowing it to die off from lack of sufficient resources. The plant then enters a dormant period, usually several months long, before entering the flowering stage. It may take a month for the colossal inflorescence to fully emerge and open. Once mature, the inflorescence reveals the gargantuan spadix (the spire looking appendage) encircled by a “skirt” (the spathe). The inflorescence sends up warm wafts of air to spread its “perfume”, a horrendous odor which mimicks the smell of rotting flesh, to attract pollinators (usually flies). The flower is completely open and effective for around two days, after which it begins to collapse. If one of these titans is successfully pollinated, it creates an orangish-red fruit-bearing aggregate fruit. This fruit appeals to birds, which usually eat the berry-like fruits. If the “pits” (the seeds) land in an area suitable for germination, they begin the life cycle all over again.

Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum, Corpse flower, Devil’s Tongue)
Deciduous: no (grown in tropical regions)
Hardiness Zones: 14 (can only be grown in specialized, high humidity and high temperature greenhouses or botanical centers), keep between 26-28 degrees Celsius at all times
Height: The flower grows up to 3 meters (10 feet) tall. The umbrella-like leaf structure can reach heights of 20 feet.
Diameter: The flower grows 3-4 feet in width. The umbrella-shaped leaf structure can grow upto 15 feet in width. The thickest part of the “leaf” stem can be as large as someone’s thigh.
Growth Rate: fast
Age: about 40 years old maximum
Root System: Almost all of the roots develop on the upper part of the tuber.
Family: Araceae
Subspecies: not sufficiently researched

Tolerates: high humidity, high heat
Problems (major): Survives natively in only a very small area of the world. Blooms are infrequent and sometimes hard to predict. The inflorescence produces a horrendous odor. If not constantly watered, the plant will likely die. Droughts often kill A. titanum plants. The container the plant is in NEEDS drainage, as “wet feet” will kill the plant. Nematodes, once they infect the plant, are usually fatal (keep Titan Arum directly off of the ground, place a heavy object underneath its container to reduce possible nematode infections).
Problems (minor): none
Poisonous: (probably) no

Soil requirements: Must be frequently watered, excellent drainage is required.
Air Requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: Requires very frequent watering and good drainage
Sun requirement: Requires full sun

Monocot/Dicot: Monocot
Herb: Yes
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: Perennial
Flowering: This type of plant produces an ENORMOUS inflorescence that creates notable amounts of warmth and a stench similar to rotting flesh. There are no records of an inflorescence blooming twice in a row, skipping over the leaf producing stage.

Leaf shape: The leaf structure resembles an umbrella; the leaflets
Leaf size: The leaf structure can grow up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. The individual leaflets are
Stem: Fairly thick at the base, eventually splits off into 2 subsections at the top.
Flowering structure: Enormous, the spadix is a whitish-yellow. The  spathe is dark red or purple, resembling a large skirt. When in full bloom, the inflorescence produces an extremely powerful, unpleasant smell.
Flowering frequency: Rare, inflorescence production occurs  every few years at most.
Bulb/Corm: The corm can weigh up to 90 kilograms (200 pounds), but mature specimens usually have corms between 25-50 kilograms (55-110 pounds).

Notable characteristics:
A. titanum has the largest inflorescence of any organism in the plant kingdom. The flower can produce an extremely pungent smell and warmth in order to attract its common pollinators, namely flies. It is native to Samatra, Indonesia. In order to successfully polinate Titan Arum, pollen should kept in a very cool area for up to six weeks (refrigerators around 5 degrees Celsius should work for this purpose). Once the plant is pollinated, the plant takes around 7 weeks to produce mature fruit. Germination may take between 1 and 5 months. There are multiple ways to propogate these plants, but most are sophisticated and very difficult to successfully do.

Uses:
Grown in botanical gardens as a specimen; flowering usually attracts people interested in this plant’s fascinating flowering.

Sources used:

Amorphophallus_titanum_7 Several Titan Arum saplings

Amorphophallus_titanum_3 An opening leaf structure

Amorphophallus_titanum_4 A close view of the stem of umbrella-shaped leaf structure

Amorphophallus_titanum_5  A close-up view of an aggregate fruit

I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s).

Amorphophallus_titanum_image_sources

DSC07284
The vegetative structure similar but smaller to A. titanum (belongs to another Amorphophallus species)

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Foliage

DSC07283
A seed pod of another Amorphophallus species

A_titanum_Roberta
Titan Arum “Izzy” flower closing at the Missouri Botanical Gardens

 

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Titan Arum “Hunter” at Mobot

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Life cycle

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Various stages

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Information regarding A. titanum “Hunter” at Mobot

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A completely opened flower

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Open flower

These last eight images were taken by my Aunt Roberta (to which I am extremely grateful for these photographs). The three images before her pictures were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article or online journal is appropriately cited first.

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8 Comments

Filed under Plant Analysis

8 responses to “Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum, Corpse Flower)

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  6. Pingback: How to Grow Amorphophallus in Your Garden

  7. Very happy to have been able to get to see “Hunter” opening last night and get some pics for you to use in your blog. Great job on the blog!

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