Smell of Success

Excitement abounds at Basel University Botanic Garden this weekend (1). Seventeen years of careful nurturing of its corm has been rewarded with the flowering of their Titan Arum. The plant popped its head out of the soil last month and has been growing rapidly, latterly at a tenth of an inch an hour, until the top of the flower is six feet above the soil.

                                                                                      Photo: U.S. Botanic Garden 
In Sumatra it’s called Bunga Bangkai (Corpse Flower) because it's perfume contains a healthy dose of cadaverine to attract its pollinators, the Flesh Flies and any beetles wandering around that clear up carrion. The flower produces large bright red berries that should definitely not be eaten. They contain a protein that is also found in parasites such as those that produce Sleeping Sickness.

Because these flowers are so large, they are in demand for all big botanical collections, however, to date there have only been 134 flowering events of plants in captivity. The first one to flower in the US was in 1937 at New York and caused sufficient excitement for the good citizens of the Bronx to claim it as their Official Flower in 1939. They must have got tired of waiting for it to flower again because they changed the official flower to the Day Lily in 2000.

Ohio State U has one called 'Woody' growing up fast and has a web cam focused on him/her(2).


One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    Ah, I was just wondering about a stop action video of this process, but will settle for the web cam link. A BIG Stinking LILY, alright!

Leave a Reply