Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Sign in to follow this  
Guest j

Researchers Uncover Secrets of Gigantic "Corpse Flower"

Recommended Posts

Guest j

John Pickrell in England

for National Geographic News

July 18, 2003



A flower taller than a man, stinking strongly of putrefying roadkill and colored deep burgundy to mimic rotting flesh, sounds like something from a low-budget science fiction movie. But Indonesia's titan arum—or "corpse flower," as known by locals—is a real, if rare, phenomenon, pollinated in the wild by carrion-seeking insects.


But corpse flowers are not only found in the wild and many have bloomed in recent years in botanical gardens worldwide from England to Arizona.


The latest to stir up a buzz is the first public blooming of a titan arum in Washington, D.C. The flower, in the United States Botanic Garden, on the National Mall next to the U.S. Capitol, is expected to open—and release its fetid odor—any time from today. Public interest is so high that the Botanic Garden has a hotline with recorded updates about the flower's progress.


A mature, bucket-shaped corpse flower emerges from a huge underground storage tuber once every one to three years. Producing that enormous, frilly inflorescence takes a lot of effort. In young specimens, and in non-flowering years, the plant unfurls a single leaf which can reach the size and appearance of a small tree with many "leaflets." However, in preparation for just a few days of flowering, the plant must shed its leaf and sit dormant for up to four months to muster its energy reserves.


Though the corpse flower's odor chemicals have been tested before, some speculation still exists as to which exact compounds are present. Sulfurous chemicals, also responsible for the smell of rotten eggs, are almost certainly present. In addition, the aptly named compounds cadaverene and putrescine—produced when flesh breaks down—are found in other flowers of the Aroid family and are likely to be synthesized by A. titanum too.


These compounds give the plant its horrendous allure, which smells "like something curled up in there and died, a week ago," said Ken Shackel, UC-Davis pomologist (fruit scientist). The scent comes out in waves, said Sandoval, reminiscent of rotting fish one minute and rotting pumpkin the next.


Corpse flowers attract nocturnal insects such as beetles and flies that usually lay eggs in rotting flesh. "I can only assume this is the plant version of a one-night stand," said Shackel.


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/07/images/030718_titanarum.jpg'> http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/05/images/020718_stinkyflower.jpg'>



Researchers Uncover Secrets of Gigantic "Corpse Flower"


Giant Flower Makes Big Stink — For a Limited Time

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest j

More info..


Giant Flower Makes Big Stink—For a Limited Time


Hillary Mayell

for National Geographic News

July 18, 2002



The Amorphophallus titanum, the world's biggest and worst-smelling flower, is currently exhibiting its stinky splendor at the Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, California.


The plant, also called titan arum, but popularly known as the corpse flower, blooms only a few times in its 40-year life span, and the bloom lasts for two and a half days at the most. During the first eight hours, the bloom emits a scent that has been variously described as similar to that of rotting eggs, a dead elephant, an outhouse in sweltering heat—and worse. But what is putrid to humans is a siren call to the carrion beetles that pollinate the flowers. They can smell the stench for miles.


Seeing the titan arum in bloom is not as rare as it once was, but it remains a huge crowd pleaser. The first bloom occurred in the United States in 1937 at the New York Botanical Garden, and drew such large crowds that it was named the official flower of the Bronx—a status it recently lost to the daylily.


Since then there have been fewer than 20 recorded blooms in the United States. Thousands of people have passed through the Quail Botanical Gardens in the last several days to view the towering flower.



Devil's Tongue


If you've never seen the plant, its name, Amorphophallus titanium, provides a clue as to why matrons of the Victorian age prevented young ladies from seeing it. Amorpho is the Greek root word for "shapeless," and phallus is the Greek word for "penis"; titanium, of course, means "huge." The plant is also called Devil's Tongue and Snake Palm.


First discovered in Sumatra's rain forests in 1878 by Odoardo Beccari, an Italian botanist, the corpse flower is a monsoon plant. During the dry season the tuber—the fleshy stem of the plant, which can weigh 100 pounds or more—remains dormant underground. When the rains come, it shoots up a single leaf that separates at the top.


"It kind of looks like a palm tree," said Paul Beeman, a plant technician at the University of Washington's greenhouse, where two plants bloomed recently without media fanfare, one in May and one in July. "And it can be quite large; up to 12 feet [3.6 meters] tall with a 15-foot [4.6 meter] spread." At the end of the growing season, the leaf dies and the tuber returns to dormancy.


If the tuber is big enough, instead of a leaf, a stalk-like structure called an inflorescence emerges. The inflorescence is the flowering part of the plant, and consists of a central shaft called a spadix. From its base comes a modified leaf called a spathe.


The spadix can grow several inches a day. A mature bloom could grow to be 12 feet (3.7 meters) tall, although so far blooms cultivated in the United States have been between 18 inches (46 centimeters)—"that one was remarkably tiny," said Beeman—to 8.5 feet (3 meters) tall. About six weeks after emerging, the inflorescence, which contains hundreds of tiny flowers, blooms—usually around midnight.


Around 48 hours later, the stink phase is over and the bloom begins to collapse. The plant won't bloom again for at least a couple of years.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I missed the blooming of this flower by one fucking day here at the national botanical museum in D.C. One fucking day! I'm always a day late and a dollar short. Someday I will found a nation called "Loserland" and we will finally have a place to go.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Register for a 12ozProphet forum account or sign in to comment

You need to be a forum member in order to comment. Forum accounts are separate from shop accounts.

Create an account

Register to become a 12ozProphet forum member.

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this