Corpse Flower: What Is It and What Does It Do?

A corpse flower only blooms once every 7 to 10 years, but when it does, it smells like rotting flesh, hence its name.

Corpse Flower: What Is It and What Does It Do?

Have you ever heard of the corpse flower? It’s a very unique plant that can only be found in certain parts of the world, such as the rainforests of Indonesia, Sumatra, and Malaysia. A corpse flower only blooms once every 7 to 10 years, but when it does, it smells like rotting flesh, hence its name. The odor attracts pollinating insects to the area that are normally attracted to dead animals, so it’s really more about giving nature what it wants! If you’re interested in learning more about this unusual plant, keep reading to find out all about corpse flowers!

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Where does it grow?

These unusual plants grow in tropical regions. They are native to southeast Asia, where they typically live in swamps and bogs. The largest flower ever recorded was a corpse flower that grew in Sumatra; it measured 1.1 meters (3.5 feet) across! This is not only impressive because of its size, but also because most corpse flowers only bloom once every seven to 10 years or so—that's why they're called corpse flowers. Once they do bloom, they're expected to emit an odor that smells like rotting flesh or garbage. This happens to attract beetles and flesh flies who pollinate them. Pretty gross, right? But it works!

Are they dangerous?

While rare, these plants have been known to take down a few people. At six feet tall, an adult corpse flower can weigh up to 400 pounds. When fully mature, it blooms for just a few days, emitting an odor that attracts pollinators like carrion beetles. While we’re not going to go so far as to say you should be wary of them, it’s still best to keep your distance if you want to stay healthy while observing one in person.

Interesting facts about the corpse flower

The plant is unofficially named after it's horrible odor. The smell is so bad that if you were anywhere near it, you would be dead! Just kidding, but it is pretty bad. The corpse flower also goes by several other names including, Amorphophallus titanum or Titan Arum. The name titan arum comes from its large size, with blooms growing up to 10 feet tall. Another really cool fact about the corpse flower is that it grows seasonally in Sumatra. Meaning one can only see them bloom for a few days once every 3-10 years! Also ,another amazing thing about them (in my opinion) is how they grow their flowers each year.

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Since the conservatory is currently closed due to COVID-19, visitors could watch the growth of the corpse flower live from the high-definition camera below. The first Amorphophallus titanum to bloom in 2020 (live stream, USBG access # 2012-0297) was purchased by the US Botanical Gardens as seeds on January 9, 2012 with a donation from Hawaiian grower Gary Meltzer. .


The second plant to bloom this year (USBG accession number 2012-0296 A) was an offshoot (clone) of a dark-colored flower from the US Botanical Gardens in 2017 (USBG accession number 2012-0296). One of the other plants in this group bloomed in August 2017 (dark color). This was only the 11th recorded flowering of any of these plants in the United States. Growers noticed that on Saturday, May 15, a flower bud formed three inches high.


When in bloom, the massive peduncle (up to 12 feet tall in the wild), which looks like a huge flower, unfolds its dark red, petal-like veil to reveal hundreds of tiny flowers at the base of the ear. yellow pillar structure. In this whimsical tower of flowers, male and female flower rings form at the base of a fleshy central spike called the spadix, which is surrounded by a wavy veil. The unusual short-lived flower structure is the largest unbranched inflorescence of any plant and smells like rotting flesh. There are usually 4-10 years or more between blooms, and during flowering, the titanium arum is often a major tourist attraction.


Like other members of the arum family, the massive titan arum inflorescence consists of an inner peduncle known as the spadix, surrounded by a petal-shaped collar known as the veil. The fleshy central spike, called the cob, bears small flowers in rings around its base. The structure of an umbrella resembles a tree, but technically it is a huge leaf made up of many small leaves branching off from a stem called a petiole; you can see one of these in the top left photo of the 2018 cadaver flower in bloom. When planted from seed, the leaf buds first emerge from the cadaver flower corm and grow upward, reaching a height of 15 to 20 feet and forming a leaf stalk and leaf blade.


According to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, if pollination is successful, the dead plant produces bright red, spherical fruits that take several months to develop. Native to the rainforests of Sumatra, the corpse flower belongs to a category of plants known to have carrion flowers or flowers that smell like decaying animals to attract scavengers as pollinators. What is often referred to as the flower of this plant is the inflorescence, a specialized structure that supports small single flowers.


After about ten years, a corpse flower can grow up to 10 feet tall and reveal its two key components: a crimson, skirt-like petal known as a veil, and a yellow, stick-like cob. The corpse plant has the largest corm in the world, sometimes weighing up to 220 pounds. The plant is endemic to the steep hills of the western Sumatra rainforest, but is grown in botanical gardens around the world. Not only is the corpse flower one of the stinkiest plants on Earth, it also has the largest collection of flowers (inflorescences) in the world.


Considering this extremely rare plant only blooms every seven to ten years, the hype surrounding this corpse flower is not without foundation. Corpse flower blooms are a rare and special event, as most plants take seven to ten years to bloom and then bloom every four to five years. During flowering, when the plant is mature enough to be pollinated, there is a female stage followed by a male stage where the male flowers produce pollen.


In the first stage, cockroaches are attracted by the stench of death and human body temperature, enter the vase-like structure, and unknowingly deposit pollen on receptive female flowers. Eventually, the remaining structures wither and the plant goes into a dormant state. As the years passed, the plants finally gained enough vigor to bloom, only remaining blooming for 24-36 hours after blooming, and then dying.


When the bulb emerges from dormancy and buds, it develops into a flower or a new leaf; we know flowering is happening when we see the tip of the cob. Corpse flower or Titan konjac is native to the tropical rain forests of western Sumatra, Indonesia, where it grows on limestone hills at low elevations, in forest clearings where there is enough light and space to form its huge leaves and inflorescences or flower structures . Known as dead flowers or stinky plants, their rotting odor is most intense during the peak hours of nighttime flowering until the early hours of the morning. The smell is most pungent when the plant first blooms and then dissipates.


When the plant is ready to bloom, the veil unfolds to reveal the flowers inside. The scientific name for corpse flowers, also known as titan arum, gives a literal description of the plant's inflorescences; Amorphophallus titanum, translated from ancient Greek, means a giant, ugly, phallus. Two dead flowers (Amorphophallus titanum), also known as titan arum, bloomed in 2020 at the US Botanical Garden.


Around the same time, a similar scene occurred at Temple University's greenhouse in Philadelphia, where two endangered flowering plants bloomed for the first time since they were brought to campus. The plant continues to bloom today in the New York Botanical Gardens (watch the 2019 NYBG time-lapse video of Corpse Flower Bloom below), as well as in a small but growing number of major botanical gardens around the world where it is commonly planted and cultivated. admired when they bloom, despite the poisonous smell. But it's the smell of decaying flower flesh that makes this plant so memorable and infamous.


Lucky for us, this stinky plant blooms once every seven or nine years according to Project Eden, and each bloom lasts only 24 to 36 hours. Incredibly, this is the same plant that bloomed earlier in 2016 and again in 2019, and the sister of the 2018 arum titan.


An Italian botanist named Odoardo Beccari collected the seeds of a carrion flower on a trip to Sumatra in the late 1870s and sent them to the Kew Botanical Gardens in the UK, where the first titanium arum flourished outside its distribution in 1889. the official flower was replaced in 2000 by the more pleasant, but much less specific-smelling daylily. The Arum titan, Amorphophallus titanum, has been called the largest flower in the world, its flowers can reach eight feet in height and four feet in diameter. While the Indonesian corpse flower has been cultivated in countries around the world for many years, the plant population appears to be declining in its native Sumatra due to deforestation for crops and timber.


With each bloom, botanists learn more about this unusual plant, and the Huntington Hotel not only shares interesting new facts with visitors, but also a growing appreciation for the wonder and diversity of the plant kingdom.


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