Scientific name: Amorphophallus titanum
Distribution: Endemic to Sumatran rainforest, Indonesia
The Titan arum is NOT currently in flower at Adelaide or Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, but you can see it in its impressive tree-like leaf form at Adelaide Botanic Garden's Bicentennial Conservatory.
The Titan arum is one of the world’s most fascinating plants, thanks to its size (it’s one of the world’s biggest flowers, growing up to three metres tall), striking appearance, the rarity and fleetingness of flowers and the fact it smells like rotting flesh when in bloom!
What am I looking at?
Growing to the size and appearance of a small green tree, at this stage of the plant’s life you’re actually witnessing a single leaf! A leaf will grow for 12-18 months and then die down when the corm (the swollen underground plant stem) goes through a resting stage, before a new leaf develops.
When the plant’s finally ready to flower, an inflorescence (flowering structure) will form from the corm instead of a leaf. Picture a massive yellow spike (spadix) rising from an upturned burgundy bell (spathe). The full flower will last for about 48 hours and the smell… well, it’s an acquired taste!
How long does it take to flower?
Even under perfect conditions, the Titan arum takes about seven-to-10 years to flower from seed. The species has proven extremely difficult to cultivate, with flowerings at botanic gardens around the world hitting the headlines as a result.
Why will it smell?
The foul smell is to attract pollinators (e.g. pollen-carrying insects), which enables fertilisation of the plant and the creation of offspring for the next generation of plants.
Did you know?
- The Titan arum has the largest unbranched inflorescence (a floral structure composed of many smaller individual flowers) in the world.
- The plant’s corm is the largest in the world, some weighing around 100 kilograms!
- Both the leaf and inflorescence can grow incredibly fast – sometimes between 0.5-1 metre per week!
You can help the Botanic Gardens of South Australia with our Titan arum conservation efforts by making a donation. Visit our Support page for more information.