Friday, September 16, 2011

Crazy Plants: Titan Arum

The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) in its reproductive stage

Inside: anthers above, stigmas below
The titan arum is one of the sort of plants that use a putrid odor to attract insects that feed on carrion. These insects are tricked into pollinating the plant. Because of its horrible smell, which has been described as "rotting-fish-with-burnt-sugar," this plant is also known as the corpse flower. It actually heats up its tissue to allow the smell to spread further. The inflorescence, or the body of the plant that holds the reproductive structures (pictured above), is up to ten feet tall, can weigh over two hundred pounds, and hides thousands of both male and female flowers. It can be called the largest flower in the world, though technically it is many flowers. The titan arum only blooms for a few days before it collapses.

After pollination, the plant produces cherry-like fruits that are eaten by birds. The birds pass the seeds and distribute them throughout the forest.When not in its reproductive form, the plant looks just like a plain old tree but has some interesting features in and of itself, like producing only a single, compound leaf. This plant is native to Indonesia and Sumatra.

Here's BBC footage of David Attenborough with this fascinating plant: 


Source is University of Wisconsin. Images are from Wikimedia Commons and are either under a creative commons license or are copyright free: one, two


  1. I've smelled one before! Was glad to strike that off the list of delightful things to do before I, too, become a corpse... So it was like smelling my inevitable future.

  2. Oh, goodness! I've never smelled one, though I have smelled some less-than pleasant plants. Ginkgo seeds, for example, smell rather like vomit. I learned very little from my inept Botany professor (having to teach yourself is frustrating), but one thing I did learn is what ginkgo seeds smell like.