Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Corpse Flower Blooms!

Corpse Flower
The colorful and odor-ful corpse flower at the UC Botanical Garden.

At the UC Botanical Garden, we heard news that Trudy, the garden's "Corpse Flower," Amorphophallus titanum, aka Titan Arum, was about to bloom. The corpse flower is the largest flowering structure in the plant world, and was discovered in 1878 by an Italian botanist in Sumatra, Indonesia. When we went to the garden to see Trudy flower, she was 66 inches high, or 5 ft 6 inches tall. That's taller than me! It lives in tropical conditions, and only flowers at certain times. It typically takes at least seven years before the plant first flowers after it sprouts from its seed. The garden employees said that the tuber, which is the large bulb-like part of the plant which lives underground, has to grow to be at least 30 lbs before the plant is ready to flower. Trudy's tuber weighed about 60 lbs.

Corpse Flower
Trudy, the UC Botanical Garden's corpse flower.

The flower will only stay open for a day or two before it begins to close. We went to go see it the morning after it opened. The plant heats up and produces an odor of rotting flesh while it blooms to attract flies to pollinate it. It really smelled bad! And there were a ton of flies hovering in and around the bloom.

Corpse Flower 's Sister
Trudy's sister, which looks a lot smaller, is actually not that much younger than Trudy.

During years that the plant doesn't bloom (the last time Trudy bloomed was in 2005) it grows a gigantic single leaf which doesn't look like a leaf at all. It looks like a tall stalk that gets leafy at the top, growing 10-15 ft tall. But it actually only is one leaf which splits up at the top. After about 16 months the leaf goes dormant, and the next time something sprouts up from the tuber, it might be another leaf or a corpse flower!

Single Leaf
The stalk/tree in this picture is actually a single enormous leaf of the Titan Arum plant when it it not in the stage of flowering.

Corpse Flower in front of Single Leaf
The corpse flower in the foreground with another single enormous leaf of a Titan Arum in the background.

The UC Botanical Garden kept a blog up of Trudy's bloom here. It is also where I got all of the information about the corpse flower.