Here is a problem that is raising a stink at the Western Illinois University (WIU). Titan Arum #3, a plant with the nickname "Corpse Flower", is having an unexplained delay in blooming for the second time, at the University greenhouse. It is expected to occur any day now. It was in June 2010 that the flower bloomed for the first time.
The University has three other Titan Arums as well. Once Titan #3 blooms again, it will be the fourth time in two years that a WIU Titan Arum has entered inflorescence.
Titan Arum, scientifically called Amorphophallus titanum, is a native of the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia. It is nicknamed "Corpse Flower" due to the unpleasant odor emitted while flowering. The strong smell that is similar to rotting flesh attracts its pollinators, carrion beetles and sweat flies.
Being the largest flowering plant in the world, it reaches heights of over 10 feet. It has the largest unbranched inflorescence, containing both male & female flowers.
One of the reasons for the plant's rarity is its unreliable blooming schedule. There is no bloom season and flowers can be produced at any time of the year.
The plant grows from an underground tuber, which can weigh up to 200 pounds. From this tuber, a large single leaf emerges resembling a small tree that can grow to over 20 feet. During this vegetative state, the tuber gains its energy to produce the massive bloom.
The plant then goes into a dormant period for approximately three months. The tuber will then either produce another leaf or a flower.
Once the tuber breaks dormancy and begins to send up a flower spike, the plant will bear flower within 4 to 6 weeks. The flower grows very quickly at a rate of 4 to 6 inches per day.
The Corpse Flower was first discovered in 1878 by an Italian plant explorer Odoardo Beccari. Upon initial discovery, it was believed to be a man-eating plant.
Beccari took seeds back to the botanical gardens in Florence, Italy and later sent seedlings to The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, England. The first ever-recorded bloom of the Corpse Flower was at Kew in 1889.
by RTT Staff Writer
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