corpse flower

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And now, The Huntington’s tumblr is proud to present…

TIMELAPSE GIFS OF THE BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Photos every 20 min.
Left: Yesterday (8/23), 9:10 a.m. through 4:50 p.m.
Center: Yesterday, 5:10 p.m. through 12:50 a.m. today (8/24).
Right: Today, 1:10 a.m. through 8:50 a.m.

The Corpse Flower, though in the process of closing, is still GORGEOUS and people are flocking in to see it. SO COOL.

[9/3 update: The Corpse Flower closed over a week ago.]

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The blooming of an Amorphophallus titanum (AKA corpse flower AKA titan arum) at The Huntington Library last week inspired me!

If you think humans jump through a lot of hoops just to reproduce, check out this plant. It waits 7-10 years, storing up starch in a giant tuber, just so it can bloom for a single day. Then it pretends to be a hunk of rotting meat to attract insect pollinators. Then, months later, it switches tactics to a produce a sweet fruit so birds will disperse it’s seeds.

If you have never smelled a titan arum but for some odd reason you would like to … you are in … luck? Scientists have identified the exact malodorous chemicals that come off these strange flowers to attract pollinators - so you can create the scent at home!*

*please, for your own sake, don’t try this at home.

Giant stinky Corpse Flower, blossoming

The Huntington, a wonderful destination here in Los Angeles, has posted GIFs of the rare Corpse Flower blossoming. If you’re in Southern California, you gotta see it in person. The plant’s latin name, Amorphophallus titanum comes from Ancient Greek amorphos, “without form, misshapen” + phallos, “phallus”, and titan, “giant.”

(via BoingBoing)

Rafflesia arnoldii is the world’s largest flower, with a diameter of around one meter and weighing up to ten kilograms. The flower is very rare and not easy to locate, growing only once a year, for five days. It grows in the rain forests of Asia and the Philippines. The flower is nicknamed “meat flower” and “corpse flower” due to the fact that it looks, and smells, like rotting flesh.

Rafflesia arnoldii 

The Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest individual flower on earth. Spanning a diameter of 3 foot (1 meter) and weighing about 11 kg it lives as a parasite on the Tetrastigma vine which is found primarily in undisturbed forests. This vascular plant actually lacks chlorophyll, stems, leaves and even roots! It grows as thread-like strands of tissue embedded within the hosts cells where it obtains nutrients and water. It is only visible when it is about to reproduce.

Its nicknamed the corpse flower as it produces a disgusting odor that resembles decaying flesh, this is to attract flies and insects which pollinate the rare plant. 

Look Familiar? Its also the inspiration behind the pokemon Gloom and its evolution Vileplume (if it wasn’t cool enough!)

Corpse flower. Titan arum.

The trademark aroma of the titan arum - a.k.a. “corpse flower” is its nauseating stench likened to rotting flesh.

The tall, 5 foot, conical central stalk of the bloom, called the spadix, generates a tremendous amount of heat that propels oils called putrecines and cadavarines into the air. When the bloom opens, its ribbed, petal-like leaves resemble an upturned fluted bell with a rich maroon interior. The blooms can be as much as 5 feet in diameter and can occur every two years. The bloom usually lasts only 72 hours before collapsing.

But it’s the plant’s putrid odor - strongest at night - that is as striking as its size. The stinky blossom attracts pollinators, insects such as flies and carrion beetles that normally feed on dead animals.

Be glad tumblr isn’t scratch & sniff (yet?)—one of our Amorphophallus titanum specimens (aka corpse flower, stinky plant, titan arum) is getting ready to bloom! We’ll be posting daily pics on our instagram and website, sending out updates via twitter, and rounding out the fun with some goodies here on tumblr. Best guess right now is that it’ll bloom sometime this coming week. It’s on view in the Conservatory now through the big stink.

caption: Image from volume 117 (January 1891) of Curtis’ Botanical Magazine, in The Huntington’s holdings. GIFed by The Huntington.

8/27 update: It bloomed, it smelled weird, it closed up. Be sure to check out the rest of our posts featuring all sorts of photos and timelapse gifs of the process. It was way cool.

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Came across some of these today out in the woods. One of the botanists identified it as a  Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe or Corpse Flower), a parasitic member of the blueberry family that’s non-photosynthetic (which is why it’s that beautiful white all over.) It gets all of it’s energy and nutrients from fungi that coexist with certain tree roots (in this case pine) and because it doesn’t need sunlight to grow it often inhabits very dark places. Each plant produces a single drooped flower- Spooky!

Rafflesia arnoldii - Rafflesia or Corpse Flower (colloquially “stink plant" or "meat plant”)

So, like a lot of people, I already knew the Rafflesia (specifically Rafflesia arnoldii) for its record of being the largest single flower in the world, and because it’s one of the “carrion flowers” that apparently attracts seed-spreaders by its terrible stench. But this thing is way more than just big and smelly - it’s managed to make me actually find it repulsive, and I’m someone who loves “gross” things!

To start, this plant is an obligate parasite, also known as a holoparasite - it has no way to create “real” roots of its own, and grows by sucking the nutrients directly from its host plant. This can be any vine from the Vitaceae family, which are abundant in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the surrounding area, where the Rafflesia live. Coincidentally, some members of the Vitaceae family are opportunistic parasites, themselves.

When a seed from the Rafflesia is deposited near or upon a suitable vine by a tree shrew or other animal (not much is known about seed dispersal yet), it doesn’t grow a taproot upon germination, like most plants. No, this fun flower grows what are known as haustoria - fungus-like probing appendages, that penetrate the host plant, and dig into the thick xylem and phloem of the vine.

The tip of each haustorium narrows as it grows between cells, and widens once it’s entrenched in an area. The parts of the haustoria not working on expanding and lengthening absorb the water and nutrients that are sucked up by the roots of the host vine. This creates an effective river of nutrients flowing up to the Rafflesia flower, which is the only part of the plant that we see. Have you ever noticed that Rafflesia don’t have any leaves? That’s because the organic compounds created by photosynthesis are sucked up through the vine, so the plant doesn’t need any!

I think I would be more settled with this plant if it didn’t effectively create a “zombie vine”. Some botanists have reported coming across old Rafflesia flowers that had so thoroughly entrenched themselves into the host plant, that the host plant didn’t even have any living tissue beyond the entrance point of the haustoria. Vines that once scaled huge trees were killed off, down to about 2-3 feet up the tree, and the haustoria of the Rafflesia had even penetrated the roots of the host. One Filipino naturalist even described it as effectively killing [the host], but keeping [the host plant] alive enough to parasitise nutrients from … ‘piloting’ the plant from the inside.”

Choix de Plants Rares ou Nouvelles dans le Jardin Botanique de Buitenzorg. F.A.W. Miquel, 1864. (via Scientific Illustration, from venusmilk)

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The Corpse Flower began to open Saturday afternoon, peaked in the middle of the night, and spent its Sunday getting pollinated and starting to close in front of the crowds who poured in to see and smell this wacky botanical wonder. By Monday (pictured in this set), it was pretty much closed back up AND STILL CRAZY BEAUTIFUL. (And—not pictured here—botanists collected pollen that’ll be frozen ‘til it can be used on another bloom here or elsewhere.)

And now we wait to see whether the pollination worked. It’ll be quite a while before we know, though, so The Huntington’s tumblr will be going back to its regular, non-Stinky5 programming. Thank you for tuning in.