PlantSnap Photos of the Week
Amorphophallus titanum -- the titan arum plant
This plant is a photo of a plant called Amorphophallus titanum — the titan arum plant.
Amorphophallus titanum, the titan arum, is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world.
The talipot palm, Corypha umbraculifera, has a larger inflorescence, but it is branched rather than unbranched. A. titanum is endemic to Sumatra.
Due to its odor, like that of a rotting corpse, the titan arum is characterized as a carrion flower, and is also known as the corpse flower or corpse plant.
As the spathe gradually opens, the spadix releases powerful odors to attract pollinators, insects which feed on dead animals or lay their eggs in rotting meat.
The potency of the odor gradually increases from late evening until the middle of the night, when carrion beetles and flesh flies are active as pollinators, then tapers off towards morning. Analyses of chemicals released by the spadix show the stench includes smells like limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, sweet floral scent, and feces.
The titan arum’s inflorescence can reach over 3 metres (10 ft) in height. Like the related cuckoo pint and calla lily, it consists of a fragrant spadix of flowers wrapped by a spathe, which looks like a large petal. In the case of the titan arum, the spathe is a deep green on the outside and dark burgundy red on the inside, with a deeply furrowed texture.
The spadix is hollow and resembles a large baguette. Near the bottom of the spadix, hidden from view inside the sheath of the spathe, the spadix bears two rings of small flowers. The upper ring bears the male flowers, the lower ring is spangled with bright red-orange carpels.
The “fragrance” of the titan arum resembles rotting meat, attracting carrion-eating beetles and flesh flies (family Sarcophagidae) that pollinate it. The inflorescence’s deep red color and texture contribute to the illusion that the spathe is a piece of meat.
During bloom, the tip of the spadix is approximately human body temperature, which helps the perfume volatilize; this heat is also believed to assist in the illusion that attracts carcass-eating insects.
Both male and female flowers grow in the same inflorescence. The female flowers open first, then a day or two following, the male flowers open. This usually prevents the flower from self-pollinating.
After the flower dies back, a single leaf, which reaches the size of a small tree, grows from the underground corm. The leaf grows on a somewhat green stalk that branches into three sections at the top, each containing many leaflets.
The leaf structure can reach up to 6 m (20 ft) tall and 5 m (16 ft) across. Each year, the old leaf dies and a new one grows in its place. When the corm has stored enough energy, it becomes dormant for about four months. Then the process repeats.
The corm is the largest known, typically weighing around 50 kg (110 lb). When a specimen at the Princess of Wales Conservatory, Kew Gardens, was repotted after its dormant period, the weight was recorded as 91 kg (201 lb).
The current record is held by a corm grown at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, weighing 153.9 kg (339 lb) after 7 years’ growth from an initial corm the size of an orange.
This PlantSnap Photos of the Week image gallery contains images captured by PlantSnappers from all around the world.
Each of these images have been chosen in the past as the PlantSnap Photo of the Week.
Each week, the new PlantSnap Photo of the Week will be added to this gallery.