Characterized by a scent Morticia Addams might use as an intoxicating perfume, the deathly-smelling Amorphophallus titanum, also known as Titan Arum or the Corpse Flower, is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. An inflorescence is the complete flower head of a plant including stems, stalks, bracts and flowers.
The Corpse Flower’s distinctive odor, which smells like a rotting corpse or carcass, along with its infrequent bloom cycle – once every 5 – 10 years – make it a rare and unusual event to witness. This carrion flower is found in the rainforests of Sumatra and is pollinated by carrion beetles and flies. The stinky odor usually lasts 2-3 days after the plant blooms, with pulsating bursts of scent emitting from the plant to attract its pollinator so that it can continue its reproductive cycle.
Since this plant’s discovery by the Italian Botanist Odoardo Beccari in 1878, the Titan arum has been an enigmatic plant that is still rare in cultivation. We invite you to witness this unique – and stinky! – event at the Garden!
For more information on the plant, where it comes from, why it is so stinky and how it is pollinated, take a look at this video from National Geographic, featuring Ari Novy, Ph.D, Chief Scientist at Leichtag Foundation (formerly of the U.S. Botanic Garden):
For a more detailed scientific look at the Corpse Flower, its bloom behavior and the thermogenesis of this giant, check out this research paper by Edward Read, Manager of the Biology Greenhouse Complex at CSU Fullerton.
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Photos: Rachel Cobb