Not all flowers smell great. Some flowers emit smell that is just on another side of great. While some people explain it as the stench of rotten meat or decaying body, it is nothing but yet other miracle of Mother Nature that laps up everything that endures and shows amazing survival instincts to withstand.
Folks, bringing you the Titan Arum, aka Corpse Flower next in the series of most rarest and beautiful plants! Discovered by an unsuspecting Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari while trekking through the Sumatra rainforest jungles in 1878, it is the largest inflorescence in the world. To put it simply, it is a group of flowers arranged in a cluster. The central column and leafy structure is called spadix and spathe respectively. Sir David Attenborough was the first person to use the name Titan Arum in the BBC series of The Private Lives of Plants because he didn’t deem its Latin name Amorphophallus titanum fit for the viewers of the show. The Latin name roughly translates to “misshapen giant penis”!
Well, but there cannot be any second thoughts about that the bloom is indeed a reproduction structure made of tiny male and female flowers. Spadix is the phallus-like structure and spathe is the leafy part that is maroon-red inside and green on the outside.
Since the female flowers mature earlier than male flowers, self-pollination isn’t possible. And the morbid stench is just this poor flower’s humble way to attract insects. Since the plant blooms only for a day or two that too after a 7-year or even longer life cycle, it becomes important to ensure that pollination happens. During this lifecycle, only one single mammoth leaf is produced. This leaf is about 10 to 15 feet and actually looks like a tree in the making. But during the 16 months, the underground tuber hibernates and the leaf is dead. The next, you never know, could be the corpse flower or just another leaf.
The “famous” corpse stench remains for just a day. If the flower is pollinated, the phallus-stalk develops seeds of orange-red color in its club-head. If not, the flower collapses and its lifecycle starts yet again.
The most-fascinating thing about the flower-phallus is that it heats up to human body temperature to fool carcass-eating insects. The heat also increases the volatility of stench. In 2009, UC Berkeley physicists researched on the flower with an atomic magnetometer to measure the biomagnetism of flower stalk.
While self-pollination in Corpse Flower is impossible due to different maturation and opening time of flowers, the garden botanists at Huntington Botanical once hand-pollinated the female flowers. The pollens were taken from the ground-based male flowers. The procedure was successful for, 10 fertile seeds and fruits were developed out of it.
Where can you Find Them?
About 100 of corpse flowers have been sighted and recorded around the world. The first flower sighting was made in the New York Botanical Gardens in the year 1937.
However, these are rare finds even in the botanic gardens. In Boston, the Franklin Park Zoo has one, which is named Morticia. Kew Gardens, London has two and Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens has one that bloomed in December 2012 and since then, nothing has happened so far on this front. Canada’s Muttart Conservatory has one corpse flower which is aptly named Putrella. California’s Huntington Library and Denver Botanic Garden have one corpse flower each to flaunt.
Despite being so awesomely huge and different, this is just another flower. No matter what you have been seeing in gruesome cartoons and movies about monster plants, this is just another plant that needs air, water and soil to develop and nurture!