Titan Arum: The Corpse Flower Speaks

Amorphophallus titanium, or the titan arum, or the corpse flower, it is known by many names. This largest unbranched inflorescence is a botanist's delight, and by the end of this piece, you will understand the reason. Here are some facts, because 'ask and ye shall receive'!
Home of the titan arum: They will mostly peep out from the openings in the rainforests, on limestone hills. Choosy, if you ask me. They are found in Western Sumatra and Western Java.

What's there in a name?: Let's face it, uttering its binomial name every now and then is not an easy task. Sir David Attenborough realised this a long time ago, and when he was presenting his BBC television series, The Private Life of Plants, he simply rechristened it as 'Titan arum', and killed two birds with one name (or stone), for he was also wary that it would be rude to explain to the audience the meaning of Amorphophallus titanium throughout the series!

Just like a corpse: It was not the urge to randomly hurl awkward names that made people call it the corpse flower. Titan arum is actually known for it unbearable stench, likened to that of a rotting corpse! Well, that's what you get if dimethyl trisulfide, dimethyl disulfide, trimethylamine etc comes together, with their obnoxious odour!

Standing tall, but not too tall for the beetles!: At over 10 feet in height, you might think that flesh flies or carrion eating beetles were no match for it. Except that you are dead wrong, and these beetles and flies play a crucial role. They pollinate it.

Nothing like a good old heavy corm: Titan arum possesses the largest known corm, which can reach 50 kg. But wait, that's not the end. The one at Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh, reached 153.9 kg, breaking the previous record!
The stench, the growth, and finally the blooming: Its spathe has a deep red colour (like meat), and during full bloom, the tip of the spadix almost equals human body temperature, and hence the rotting scent! It usually spends around 7-10 years in vegetative growth, before blooming for the first time.

The corpse flower plays quite the organic phoenix, as after its death, a single leaf develops from the underground corm. With its unique traits, the Titan arum continues to baffle us, and while we are at it, let's be grateful that we don't smell like a rotting cadaver.

Post Written by - Lopamudra


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