Amorphophallus konjac is blooming now in the URI Horridge Conservatory. This herbaceous perennial plant is native to tropical southeast Asia. A large bulb sends up a single shoot with a single (compound) leaf.After a season of photosynthesizing, this shoot dies back to the ground. The plant remains dormant until the next growing season, when it sends up a single flower. This spectacular flower consists of a spadix (floral spike) and a spathe (modified leaf which surrounds the spadix).At the moment, it measures 42 ” tall!
Although the Amorphophallus flower is beautiful in an elegant way, it’s fragrance is not at all beautiful. To attract pollinators, it emits a tantalizing odor of rotting meat. The mottled maroon coloring of the inflorescence also adds to the illusion of food for the insects. This spring the “dead mouse'” smell is not that strong, perhaps because it’s cloudy. At any rate, the flower lasts only a few days, and then the plant begins to die back, to start the cycle of dormancy and growth again.
The Horridge Conservatory is fortunate to have another Amorphophallus plant, A. titanum. Native to the island of Sumatra, the Titan Arum or Corpse Flower has the largest unbranched inflorescence known — up to 6 ft tall and 3 feet around! In it’s vegetative stage in our greenhouse, it is currently standing at 44 inches. It could flower as soon as spring 2011. We’ll keep you posted.