Flowers are the most prominent part of a plant; they are colorful and conspicuous and form the reproductive part of plants. And as diverse as these plants are, so are their flowers, ranging in shape, size, and even scent. Some of the flowers can grow to huge sizes such as the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium). The flower holding the record as the largest in the world stood 10 feet 2.25 inches, and it was grown by Louis Ricciardiello in the USA.
Origin of the Name
Titan arum is also referred to as corpse flower due to its odor which smells like a rotting corpse. In Indonesia, its name "bunga bangkai" translates to corpse flower. The name titan arum was introduced by a broadcaster who thought the name Amorphophallus was not appropriate for a television documentary.
By origin, titan arum is native to Western Java and central Sumatra, and it is endemic to the limestone hills and the equatorial rainforest of Indonesia. There are private collectors all around the world who grow it as well as being a part of the collection in botanical gardens.
The titan arum’s flower can reach a height of up to 10 feet, and the corpse-smelling flower is surrounded by a structure that resembles a large petal. This structure, known as a spathe, is deep red on the inside but bears a deep green color on the outside. It is made up of two rings of flowers; the upper part houses the male flowers, while the lower region is adorned with bright red carpels, and this is where its smell comes from. The fragrant plant attracts flies which pollinate the flower. The process of pollination involves systemic opening of the female flower then after about two days, the male flower opens to ensure self-pollination does not occur.
Outside its natural habitat in Sumatra, cultivated arum takes anywhere from 7 to 10 years before its first flowers emerge, after which it can bloom again after every two or three years although some may only bloom again after another 7 or so years.
The strong odor of rotting meat that the flower emits increases gradually from sundown to the middle of the night. This is when the pollinators are most active, and these include flesh flies that then go away as morning approaches.
The world record for titan arum has been changing year to year. The tallest recorded heights have notably come from cultivated plants. Guinness World Records first acknowledged the tallest bloom in 2003 at 8 feet 11 inches cultivated in Germany. The record was broken in October 2005 in Stuggart, Germany when a flower reached 9 feet 6 inches. However, in June 2010 the record went to the USA and is currently the world record holder at 10 feet 2.25 inches held by Louis Riccardiello. This bloom broke the record while on display in New Hampshire, USA. The first high school in the world to bring a titan to bloom was Roseville High School in California in 2011.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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