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All about the Corpse Flower

Updated on April 10, 2016

Learn about Amorphophallus titanum: The Corpse Flower

Amorphophallus titanum aka the Titan Arum or the "Corpse Flower" is one of the largest, rarest, and smelliest flowers in the world. It can grow to a height of 7-10 feet and when it flowers it can have a diameter of 5-6 ft PLUS (and this is how it gets its name) when blooming it smells of rotting flesh!

This site provides links to websites providing information about the Amorphophallus titanum. It includes images of the Corpse Flower and videos of its growth and statistics about the dimensions of different examples

Image Credit: US Botanic Garden. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"The titan arum produces one of the largest flowering structures and one of the foulest odours in the plant kingdom."

— Kew Gardens

What Is a "Corpse Flower"?

Learn why the largest flower in the world is also the smelliest

Amorphophallus titanum: The Corpse Flower aka Titan Arum

Amorphophallus titanum: The Corpse Flower aka Titan Arum
Amorphophallus titanum: The Corpse Flower aka Titan Arum

ALL ABOUT Amorphophallus titanum a.k.a. the Titan Arum a.k.a "Corpse Flower"

Features of the Titan Arum:

* Amorphophallus titanum (aka Titan Arum) is VERY RARE in its native home of Sumatra - and even rarer outside Sumatra. It's classified as Vulnerable (V) on the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants.

* The titan arum can be found in the rainforests of western Sumatra, on steep hillsides that are 120 to 365 metres above sea level.

* The Titan Arum VERY RARELY FLOWERS - only once in a 1,000 days once it's reached an age where it can flower

* Titan Arum has flowered 29 times in the USA since records began - but there are fewer than 29 plants.

* This is a plant which grows taller than a man - it's common for them to be over 6 feet tall

* It produces THE BIGGEST FLOWER IN THE WORLD. A single inflorescence can be around about four feet across

* Technically it's lots of very small flowers - male and female - surrounded by a coloured leaf ( a special form of bract - called a spathe) which is commonly mistaken for the flower

* Usually it has a single spathe/flower colored deep burgundy - but it can produce more than one inflorescence (see Bonn video below)

* The flower typically only lasts about three days

* The record for the tallest inflorescence has been set by a Titan Arum located in Bonn, Germany. In May 2010 it produced a bloom nearly nine feet (2.74 meters) tall above the soil. Its total height, including the tuber under the soil, was 11 feet in (3.40 meters)

* Most well known for producing a VERY STRONG STINK of "putrefying roadkill" - hence its nickname of "the corpse flower"

* it's actually the big spike in the middle which produces the smell

* It only smells when the female flowers are receptive to pollen

* The flower is at its fullest (and foulest) during the first 12 hours of its bloom when it is at its peak fertility

* It's thought the stink is to make sure that pollinators find it in its natural habitat of the Rain Forest

* In the wild it's pollinated by carrion-seeking insects

* In 2009, David Attenborough gave it the short name of "Titan Arum" as its proper latin name is very long and sounds a bit rude!

* In 1878, Italian botanist and explorer Dr. Odoardo Beccari discovered it in the rainforest of central Sumatra

* Titan Arums are typically only now found in tropical rainforest in Sumatra or in large botanical gardens

Each time it blooms it typically attracts thousands of people who will stand in line to view this amazing plant

Botany of the Titan Arum - the Corpse flower - which bit is which?

TOP THREE THINGS TO KNOW:

1. It's not one flower - technically it's a group of male and female flowers (an INFLORESCENCE), but they always grown together so it can be considered as one flower

2. The big spike in the middle is called the SPADIX- and this is what supports the Inflorescence and creates the smell to get insects to come and pollinate it

3. What people think of as the flower is actually a very special sort of leaf called a SPATHE. This is a bract leaf and it's normally a deep purple colour. It unfurls very slowly from the spadix. Before it starts unfurling it tends to sag and look a bit "pregnant" and its girth widens prior to flowering

Titan Arum Taxonomy

* Class: Equisetopsida

* Subclass: Magnoliidae

* Superorder: Lilianae

* Order: Alismatales

* Family: Araceae

* Genus: Amorphophallus

Where in the world can you see a titan arum in bloom? - A list of titan arums in cultivation - and which are coming into bloom

This is a VERY RARE plant and there are not many places it grows outside the wild. However you can see it in cultivation - if you wait long enough!

Despite the rarity of this flower, on 22nd and 23rd July 2010 there were THREE Corpse Flowers blooming around the world - see:

* Lois the Corpse Flower - the star attraction of the The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science - opened 21st July 2010

* Perry the Corpse Flower At the Gustavus Adolphus College - with live webcam - opened 23rd July 2010

* the Corpse Flower in the Koishikawa Botanical Garden in Tokyo, Japan - opened 23rd July 2010

Titan Arum Flowerings in Europe

Titan Arum flowers at Kew Gardens - a timelapse video from Kew Gardens on YouTube

One of the most spectacular plants to be found in the wet tropics zone of Kew Gardens' Princess of Wales Conservatory is the titan arum. With its huge flowering structure (inflorescence) rising over 2.5m above the ground and its single immense leaf, it certainly is a giant among plants, as its name suggests. Coupled with its characteristic foul stench, and the rarity of flowerings, this plant has always hit the headlines.

This plant is also renowned for flowering on a regular basis. The Kew Gardens Facebook site usually announces when it has flowered

Flowering of the Titan Arum at Kew gardens

Latest dates of Flowering of the Titan Arum at Kew Gardens:

* 29th August 2012

After the party's over...........

This is what a spadix of a Corpse Flower looks like AFTER the stench and AFTER the spathe has died and fallen away.

The Corpse Flower in Bonn - Largest Bloom - Botanische Garten der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn

The plant has an underground tuber, which can weigh up to 75 kg. This tuber produces a single, multipinnate leaf, which can grow up to 6 m tall and nearly as wide. This leaf lives for 9 to 24 months and, during its lifespan, it delivers the energy for a new, larger tuber.

At irregular intervals of several years, instead of a leaf, the tuber produces a colossal inflorescence, which can grow more than 3 m high and 1.50 m wide

Flowering titan arums in Bonn are almost traditional by now - the event in May 2006 marks the ninth and tenth time, after 1937, 1940, 1987, 1996 (two plants), 1998, 2000 and 2003.

The links below provided a lot of technical data about the growth profiles and flowering

A titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) with 3 flowers at Botanischer Garten Bonn

Titan arum in Bonn - The worlds largest bloom - a timelapse video on YouTube

This is a not very good time lapse video of a very unique event. In May 2006, three inflorescences emerge from a tuber of the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) in Bonn Botanical Gardens, Germany.

In 2003, the very same plant produced the world's largest bloom - officially certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as 3.06 metres (10 feet tall) on 23 May 2003

Visit the Botanic Garden in Bonn's website for more information on Amorphophallus (in English)

Titan Arum Flowerings in the USA

As at July 2010 there have been 29 occasions when a corpse flower has flowered in the USA

Titan Arum Flowering at the Huntington August 2014

The Huntington Libraries Botanical Gardens has a track record of producing flowering Titan Arums - in 1999, 2002, 2009, and 2010.

The latest flowered on Aug. 23, 2014 and the inflorescence grew about 4 inches a day before achieving a height of 5 ft. 6 inches prior to opening. At which point it started to stink!

78,000 people visited to view the first blooming of a Titan Arum in 1999 - see the coverage it got in 1999 in the video below. This relates to the first time a Titan Arum had flowered in California

Throwback to 1999: "A Botanical Titan Blooms"

Titan Arum Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

In 2006, the Titan Arum at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens bloomed which pleased both visitors and staff at the facility which had not seen a corpse flower bloom since 1939.

Amorphophallus Titanum blooming at The Huntington in 1999 - a timelapse video on YouTube

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens: Timelapse "Corpse Flower" Blooming (Amorphophallus Titanum) Date of Bloom: 8/1/99 - 8/2/99

When it bloomed at The Huntington in 1999, the gigantic Amorphophallus titanum (a.k.a. the Corpse Flower) created international headlines. A second flowering in 2002, and a third in June 2009 were equally sensational.

LOIS THE CORPSE FLOWER - Museum of Natural Science, Houston

Meet Lois the Corpse Flower and Zac Stayton her personal horticulturalist

Lois - the Corpse Flower in Houston - In the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

Lois - the Corpse Flower at the Houston Museum of Natural Science started to bloom on 21st July 2010 having debuted on Flickr on July 8th. There was then a long and very pregnant pause which got people twittering all around the world.

Lois is over 6 feet tall and it's expected her bloom when fully open will meausre around about four feet in diameter

As she blooms the smell will change from rotting pumpkin, through rotting fish to rotting flesh!!!

The museum's attendance is up 400 percent, averaging 4,000 visitors a day.

See the Corpse Flower at HMNS!

Introducing Lois the Corpse Flower at HMNS - Meet Zac and Lois

The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is pleased to present, for your viewing and olfactory pleasure: a celebrity among the plant community, the Amorphophallus titanum.

Amorphophallus titanum, more politely referred to as titan arum or the corpse flower, has gained its celebrity status by having one of the largest, rarest, and smelliest flowers in the world. These flowers can reach heights of 7-10 ft and a diameter of 5-6 ft.

VIDEO Lois: The Documentary [Preview]

Relive the Lois phenomenon! From the non-stop webcam coverage to the crowds here to see Lois around the clock to the weddings taking place at the height of Lois’ bloom and the “mystery tweeter” behind @CorpzFlowrLois - go behind the scenes to hear from staff, fans and Lois insiders to discover what made Lois the Corpse Flower into the plant heard round the world - and find out what’s next for this extraordinary bloom.

The full Lois documentary is now available in the HMNS Museum Store!

Perry the Corpse Flower

@ Gustavus Adolphus College July 2010

Perry the Corpse Flower - Gustavus Adolpus College

The seed was originally planted in 1993

Perry on YouTube

Gustavus Chemistry Professor Brian O'Brien talks about Perry the corpse flower's history.

Gustavus Corpse Flower (Titan Arum) Blooming May 12th 2007

Time lapse video of the Gustavus Adolphus College corpse flower (titan arum) named Perry as it bloomed on May 12th, 2007

More Corpse Flower Bloomings in the USA

There are corpse flower bloomings all over the USA - this section highlights some of the other places where a corpse flower has bloomed.

Watch out for the names given to the flower - "Morticia" at the Franklin Park zoo has to be one of the best yet!

Titan Arum Flowerings in Asia

Corpse Flowers in Japan

A giant Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) started to bloom, at the botanic gardens in Tokyo on July 22, 2010. This is the first blooming of Amorphophallus titanum is in 20 years

Caring for a Corpse Flower

Tips on how to look after a Corpse Flower

Looking after an Amorphophallus titanum

So how do you raise a corpse flower?

More About the Corpse Flower

Locations of different bloomings - How big and where?

The largest titan arum inflorescences

1. Bonn (Germany), May 2003, 274 cm

2. Wageningen (The Netherlands), 1932, 267 cm

3. Bogor (Indonesia), 261 cm

4. Bonn (Germany), 2000, 257,5 cm

5. New York (USA), 1937, 256,5 cm

6. Frankfurt (Germany), 1985, circa 250 cm *

(* In contrast to the other flowerings, the Frankfurt plant was measured from the tuber upward (2.7m). For comparison with other plants, therefore, about 20 cm have to be deducted.)

Source: Bonn Botanical Garden

BOOK: The Private Life of Plants

The Private Life of Plants
The Private Life of Plants

Based on the immensely popular six-part BBC program that will air in the United States during the fall of 1995, this book offers what writer/filmmaker David Attenborough is best known for delivering: an intimate view of the natural world wherein a multitude of miniature dramas unfold. In the program and book, both titled The Private Life of Plants, Attenborough treks through rainforests, mountain ranges, deserts, beaches, and home gardens to show us things we might never have suspected about the vegetation that surrounds us. Attenborough makes the plant world a vivid place for readers, who in this book can enjoy the tour at their own pace, taking in the lively descriptions and nearly 300 full-color photos showing plants in close detail. The author reveals to us the aspects of plants' lives that seem hidden from view, such as fighting, avoiding or exploiting predators or neighbors, and struggling to find food, increase their territories, reproduce themselves, and establish their place in the sun. Covering this remarkable range of information with enthusiasm and clarity, Attenborough helps us to look anew at the vegetation on which all life depends and which has an intriguing life of its own.

It includes his encounter with the Titan Arum in the rainforests of Sumatra

 

Have you ever seen and/or smelled a Corpse Flower? Tell us what it was like.

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    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      Ouch, did I say The Eden Project? A senior moment, it was of course kew Gardens.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      Such a lot of information, I am going back to look at the videos. I remember the flowering at Eden (the project) which was widely reported on TV and in the newspapers. I made an ATC in watercolour - such a small sketch for such a huge flower; it is still on Flickr. Thanks for all the background info, a massive task for you.

    • GardenTravel profile image
      Author

      Katherine T 6 years ago from London

      @anonymous: Well you're the same part of the world in tropical terms so I guess it's entirely possible that you've got one. Most of the ones seen in public today are being grown outside Sumatra in botanical gardens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      this may sound pretty odd, but i think one of these stinky things' actually blooming a foot away from my fence. the neighbors are freaking out because of its foulness and everyone's talking about weird case scenarios since no one claims to have planted it there, let alone having wanted to plant it there. I believe these only grow naturally in Sumatra, now that's kind of far from where I live, Cebu, PHilippines. your thoughts?

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I had heard of these, now I know a lot about them. Interesting lens on an unusual subject.

    • GardenTravel profile image
      Author

      Katherine T 6 years ago from London

      @ShamanicShift: Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I actually had one growing in my front yard. Didn't know what it was -- didn't even see it at first, just smelled the rank smell. Figured it was a dead decomposing rat -- went looking for it in the yard and found a small orangish cone that was evidentally a very young corpse flower. Still had no idea what it was -- just knew it smelled horrible and wouldn't go away. Figured it was an undesirable weed and destroyed it.

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 6 years ago

      I saw and whiffed in the botanical gardens here in Milwaukee -- SquidAngel BLESSED!

    • spunkyduckling profile image

      spunkyduckling 7 years ago

      That really must be a spectacular flower. It's size sound scary to me but very interesting too.Thanks for sharing about the corpse flower. Oh well..I am going to sleep now. I have been trying to get some lenses together for the Christmas rush and I am all choked lol.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      This plant (and your lens) is fascinating - although I am keen on gardening I hadn't heard of the corpse flower before.

      I have black lilies in my garden, which must be a relation to the larger plant. They smell bad and only last a very few days, so are really rather useless plants for a small garden, but they have beautiful sculptural leaves and are so unusual that, not only do I not get rid of them, but I also encourage others to have cuttings, and there must be 5 or 6 people who have benefitted from my little rarities. Lensrolling to some of my gardening lenses.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      Very interesting. Nicely done lens. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 7 years ago from London

      @VarietyWriter2: Many thanks! :)

    • SacredCynWear profile image

      SacredCynWear 7 years ago

      Feed ME Seymour! "That's what I think about" Little shop of horrors, only this seems a little scarier!

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 7 years ago from London

      @myraggededge: Many Thanks! I've not come across one which ponged - just the ones that assault you with their indelible pollen! :)

    • profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Fascinating page on a flower that I just would not want in my garden or any garden near by! Mt granny had a small lily that used to pong too and however much she tried to get rid of it, it kept coming back - I wonder what that was?

      Blessed :-)