Amorphophallus titanum, otherwise known as the Titan Arum, is a rare and endangered plant from the rainforest island of Sumatra. In 2009, the URI Botanical Gardens obtained a Titan Arum corm (a bulb-like structure) to add to our tropical plant collection. Now, after two years of vegetative growth alternating with months-long dormant periods, “Audrey” is about to flower!
The Titan Arum, also known as “Corpse Flower” for it’s odor of rotting meat, has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. In cultivation it can be 4 to 6, or even 8 feet tall, and more in it’s native habitat. Right now ours is growing about three inches a day. It will keep up this rapid pace until it is ready to open, when growth will slow. The unpleasant smell of the bloom, along with the fleshy red and maroon “meaty” colors, attract the flies and beetles (of the family Sarcophagidae) which pollinate it.
A.titanum was discovered in Sumatra by the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in 1878. A specimen was shipped to the Royal Botanical Gardens in England, where the plant was displayed and bloomed for the first time in cultivation in 1889. It may take 15 years for the Titan Arum to become large enough to bloom, and it is especially rare to see in cultivation. According to the UC Davis website, where more than one Titan Arum has bloomed, these giants have been coaxed into flower only about 100 times worldwide. Definitely a first in Rhode Island!
Our plant has grown 9 inches in three days! In addition to height and circumference measurements, temperature is an indicator of impending bloom time. The temperature of the spadix rises to almost 98 degrees F to help volatilize the “aroma” and attract pollinators. The growth chart and more information is on display in the Conservatory.
As “Audrey” approaches full bloom, visitors to the Horridge Conservatory will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a remarkable and unusual sight. Our regular visiting hours w (M – F, 8 am to 4 pm ) will be extended for the 24-48 hours that the flower lasts. Check back for updates and more photos as we track this historic event!