Titan Arum, also called “Corpse Flower”, is one of the world’s largest flowers. Well, technically, it is an inflorescence – a group of flowers gathered around a spadix and surrounded by a spathe. Its scientific name is Amorphophallus titanum, which basically describes the flower’s distinct shape. Based on the Latin words amorphous (misshapen), phallus (penis), and titanum (giant), this flower can grow to around 10 to 15 feet with leaves typically spreading to a massive 13 feet in width. Titan Arum is also relative to the skunk cabbages, duckweeds, calla lilies, and jack-in-the-pulpits.
Why the flower smells so nasty?
It all comes down to science. Flowers need pollination for its species to thrive. The corpse flower’s way of attracting pollinators is through its stinky odor, dark burgundy color, and warm temperature reaching up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. By imitating the nature of a dead animal, the flower is able to attract its primary pollinators – the carnivorous insects such as dung beetles and flesh flies, which love feasting on dead flesh.
Primarily, titan arum is so big it can take up to seven to ten years to fully bloom and then lives for only a couple of days – more or less four days. For that reason, the flower needs its strong stinky odor to draw the attention of the carnivorous insects that are hunting for food even if they are half a mile away. The insects will mistaken the flower for food. They will then fly inside this flower, crawl all over it, and with much dismay – as there aren’t any food inside it – they will fly off the flower with its pollens stuck on their feet.
This process will ensure that there is an ample pollination of the species. The corpse flower relies on massive pollination to ensure that its species will never go extinct because of its significantly short life. It is worth remembering that this flower can only live to around four days after it has completely blossomed.
In the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, where a titan arum they cultivated bloomed recently, spectators noticed that the flower will release an aroma every after 20 to 30 seconds using its pulses. The aroma is very strong that it’s almost similar to a rotten flesh. After two to four days, its spadix died down followed by its flower that withered down into a compost.
When the corpse flower has fully bloomed and the pollination process has been completed, this will eventually contract and wilt. Then you will have to wait for a couple more years – or a decade – to see another titan arum in full bloom.
Who should we thank (or blame) for the discovery of this huge stinky flower?
The corpse flower was first discovered by a botanist from Italy, whose name was Odoardo Beccari, in 1878 while he was trekking the rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia. Although the flower typically grows in the wild tropical forests of the Asian continent, its seeds have been distributed and have also been cultivated to grow on various botanic gardens around the world such as the Adelaide Botanic Garden in Australia, where it drew a large gathering of crowds.
In February of 2016, ten thousand people came to visit and see the corpse flower in the botanic garden. The flower, after years of cultivation, finally bloomed and all of its spectators never bothered themselves about its extremely stinky smell. People came to witness one of the world’s largest and stinkiest flower, which they might not be able to see in the next ten years, and for them, that was already rewarding.