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Amorphophallus titanum

Corpse flower or titan-arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is native to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Its enormous flower spike is the largest unbranched inflorescence (flower structure) in the Plant Kingdom. The fleshy central spike, called a spadix [A], bears small flowers in rings around its base. The spadix can grow up to 12 feet tall. The spadix is wrapped in a frilly, modified leaf called a spathe [B]. When the plant is ready to bloom, the spathe unfurls, exposing the flowers inside. You may recognize the structure’s resemblance to calla-lily, anthurium, and jack-in-the-pulpit, which are all relatives in the arum family, Araceae.

Amorphophallus titanum is often called corpse flower because when it blooms, it emits a powerful stench similar to that of rotting meat. This scent, along with the deep-red, meaty color of the open spathe, attracts insect pollinators that feed on dead animals.

Titan-arums take years to form flower buds, but when they finally do, the flowers mature very quickly. Titan-arum blooms are rare and unpredictable, as each plant takes seven to ten years to store enough energy to bloom for the first time. In the beginning of the bloom cycle, a titan-arum grows four to six inches each day. Later, growth slows significantly. Two leaves at the base of the spathe shrivel and fall off. The spathe begins to open, revealing the red-purple color inside, and completely unfurls over the course of about 36 hours.

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