Saturday, 7 May 2011

Amorphophallus Titanum

This week, we’ve got a super sized epic creature...The Amorphophallus Titanum has the largest unbranched inflorescence (or spadix) in the world; it can reach over three meters (or nearly 10 feet) long! The inflorescence happens to be the large stem in the middle of the flower... The Amorphophallus Titanum starts out as a large tuberous root called corm, which can weigh up to 200lbs. The corm grows and stores energy for up to ten years before it flowers. While developing, it can grow up to several inches a day, ultimately reaching up to nine feet and looking very similar to an ear of corn. When growth slows to one inch a day it is ready to bloom.
It blooms at night and becomes so hot from the process that it steams; a very unusual feature of this flower is that it heats itself. The spathe (flower petals) on the inside are deep purplish-red and the inflorescence is yellow. While blooming the smell this plant produces is akin to rotten egg, meat or fish, some people even say it smells like cheese. This smell is made to attract carcass-eating insects, as they crawl into the male flower the outer leaf closes on them. The male then discharges pollen on the insects then the leaves open up. Now when the insects investigate the female flowers they will fertilize them with the pollen stuck on them. To help prevent the bugs fertilizing other males, the females bloom after the males. After being fertilized the plant grows bright red fruit the size of olives then three days later the flower dies. However, the single leaf produced by the tuber grows into a tree-like plant that reaches up to 20ft tall and has a foliage spread of 15ft across, this allows the corm to begin storing energy again to be deployed years later.
The Amorphophallus Titanum is rarely seen flowering, but when it does it is announced by keepers and a showing is planned. There was a showing of a Amorphophallus Titanum on April 23rd 2011 at the Botanical Garden University of Basel and people held their noses closed as they watched this beautiful flower bloom! Another reason it is so rare is because it only grows in the Sumatra rainforest (Indonesia) on limestone hills and only if there is an opening in the bush for sun.

After seeing some pictures of this plant you may think “Geez that plant looks very phallic…” you are not the only one! Its scientific name “Amorphophallus Titanum” means “huge deformed penis”. Sir David Attenborough was aware of this and felt is was awkward calling it a huge deformed penis in Latin on his TV show “The Private Life of Plants” so he invented the nickname “Titan Arum”. In Indonesia the common name for it is “Bunga Bangkai” which roughly translates to “Corpse Plant” and that is where it gets its second common nickname.

The size, smell and lifespan of this flower are the reasons I deem this flower EPIC!

**You may also say “Hey isn't this an Epic Creature Blog, why is there a plant?” I would answer by quoting Wikipedia… “A creature is an organism [emphasis added]. The term is derived from the widespread historical belief that all such things were created, as by a deity or deities. The word is generally used to refer to non-human animals but does include humans.” Now that I cleared that up, in the future I may review creatures alive now, creatures from the past or even mythological creatures! **

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