The spectacular Titan Arum

With a massive flowering structure that rises some three metres above the ground, the Titan arum is a giant among plants, scientifically named Amorphophallus titanum (Alismatales - Araceae).

These striking plants dwell only in the rainforests of western Sumatra, on steep hillsides that are 120 to 365 m above sea level.

The Titan arum has a massive inflorescence (flowering structure) consisting of a spathe (collar-like structure) wrapped around a spadix (flower-bearing spike). The spathe is the shape of an upturned bell. It is green speckled with cream on the outside, and rich crimson on the inside. It has ribbed sides and a frilled edge, and can be up to three metres in circumference.

The flowers are carried on the lower end of the greyish-yellow spadix. At the base of the spadix, within the protective chamber formed by the spathe, is a band of cream male flowers above a ring of the larger pink female flowers. When the flowers are ready for pollination, the spadix heats up and emits a nauseating smell. This stench is so bad that the Indonesians call the plant ‘the corpse flower’.

These wonders of nature are not easy to observe in the wild; they can take ten years to flower and are only open for one day.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Jeremy Holden  |  [Top]  -  [Bottom]  | Locality: Sumatra

Made with Flickr

The Elephant yam - A striking aroid used as food, fodder and medical

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (Alismatales - Araceae) is a large aroid, which is found throughout Asia. In the wild it is ruderal in habit and grows in a very wide range of moist, semi-shaded to open, secondary and disturbed forests, shrublands, scrubs and grasslands. It is also cultivated as an ornamental for its striking compound foliage and unusual and dramatic flowering and fruiting structures.

The plant produces a single inflorescence (flowering spike) crowned with a bulbous maroon knob and encircled by a fleshy maroon and green-blotched bract. After the growing season, this dies back to an underground storage organ (tuber).

Commonly known as Elephant yam, it is one of the staple food plants of tropical Asia, and is extensively cultivated for its edible tubers, which are the third most important carbohydrate source after rice and maize in Indonesia. They are also consumed widely in India and Sri Lanka, although elsewhere they are seen as a famine crop, to be used when more popular staples, such as rice, are in short supply.

Elephant yam has medicinal properties and is used in many Ayurvedic (traditional Hindu) preparations. Severals studies have been done on the properties of this plant. Several experimental studies have been done on the properties of this plant, showing that tuber extract has real antioxidant activity and inhibition of hepatic cell proliferation in cancer, however this has only been proven in experimental protocols with mice.

Other common names: Elephant foot yam, Whitespot giant arum, Stink lily, Telinga potato.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: ©tpholland | Locality: cultivated - Par, England, UK (2012)

Made with Flickr

Dragon Arum - Dracunculus vulgaris

A superb inflorescence of the Dragon Arum, Dracunculus vulgaris (Alismatales - Araceae), the most spectacular of the European aroids. Native to the East Mediterranean, this inflorescence is as beautiful as stinky.

With a length that may exceed 80 cm, the inflorescence or spadix, which have male flowers at the top, and female flowers at the bottom, is enveloped by a large very deep purple-black bract (the spathe). When mature, the spadix spreads a nauseous dungy rotten meaty odor. The nasty smell of rotting meat is designed to attract flies for pollination.

Dracunculus vulgaris is a thermogenic plant, which means that it can raise their internal body temperature to a level higher than the ambient temperature. There are three major benefits of heat production in thermogenic plants: (1) to protect the reproductive process from low temperatures; (2) to reward insect pollinators in the flower by providing a warm environment; and (3) to attract insect pollinators by volatilizing floral scent compounds.

References: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4]

Photo credit: ©Janis Morrison | Locality: Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC, Canada (2014)

Made with Flickr

Anthurium andraeanum ‘Shibori' 

Anthurium is the most speciose genus in the Araceae, a monocot family defined by its unique inflorescence composed of a spadix and spathe. The spadix holds hundreds of minute flowers compacted on a spike, which is subtended by a more or less showy sterile leaf-like organ, the spathe.

Anthurium is comprised of ∼900 published and 1500 estimated species endemic to the neotropical zones of northern Mexico and south through Central America to southern Brazil, and on the Caribbean Islands.

Anthurium andraeanum, native to Colombia, was first introduced to the island of Oahu in 1889, where it flourished and became widely cultivated by amateur breeders and hobbyists who developed many attractive new varieties. One of them is the cultivar 'Shibori’, especially beautiful by the variegated or mottled appearance of the spathe.

Reference: [1

Photo credits: ©Ben Caledonia | Locality: not indicated (2012, 2013) | [Top] - [Bottom]

Made with Flickr

Jack-in-the-pulpit - Arisaema triphyllum

Arisaema triphyllum (Alismatales - Araceae) is a North American woodland perennial, with large, cylindrical, hooded flower, green in color with brown stripes. Plants can remain vegetative or may produce a single male female inflorescence or clustered arrangement of flowers. The inflorescence consists of a central spadex which holds the flowers surrounded by a tube with a hood or spathe on top. The spathe can range in color from green to purple.  

The flowers are located at the base of the spadex.  The spathe or hood acts as a “kettle trap” of pollinating insects. Male plants have a small hole at the bottom of the spathe. Insects enter through the top and are drawn to the light (and pollen) at the bottom where they exit. Female plants do not have an escape route so once an insect enters through the top, there is a very small chance that it will find its way out.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Bruno Bergeron | Locality: Saint-Romuald, Quebec, Canada (2013)

Made with Flickr

Japanese Cobra Lily

Arisaema sikokianum (Alismatales - Araceae) is a tuberous woodland perennial that is native to Japan.

It is closely related to the Jack-in-the-Pulpit that is native to eastern North America (Arisaema triphyllum), and sometimes A. sikokianum is commonly referred as Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

It typically grows to 45-61 cm tall. Each tuber produces a single stem containing a pair of 5-lobed leaves. From the center of the leaf stalks rises a flower in spring. Each flower consists of a hooded leafy bract called a spathe which envelops an upright flowering spike called a spadix. The spathe is dark purple on the outside and pure white on the inside with a colorful hood that features purple, dark green and white striping. The spadix is a pure white and enveloped by the spathe.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Jindrich Shejbal

Locality: cultivated

Made with Flickr

Anthurium andraeanum - A toxic beauty

Anthurium andraeanum (Alismatales - Araceae) is a beautiful neotropical species found in Central and South America.

The whole plant is toxic, contains calcium oxalate crystals and proteolytic enzymes that can excite histamine release causing serious allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. So, being ornamental plants, it is important to keep them away from pets and children.

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©ashitaka

Locality: unknown (Japan)

Made with Flickr


Anthurium is a large genus of about 800 species of flowering plants, belonging to the Araceae Family. Anthurium is also called Flamingo flower or Boy flower, both referring to the structure of the spathe (a type of bract, pink in the photo) and spadix (the elongated into a spike shape that contains the flowers in dense spirals).

Photo credit: ©Parshotam Lal Tandon

Locality: Lal Bagh, Bangalore, India

Made with Flickr

Bird’s-nest Anthurium - Anthurium salvinii

Anthurium salvinii (Alismatales - Araceae) is a species of Anthurium, up to one meter in height and characteristic by having purple or violet bracts, and dark purple spadix. This species can be found from Mexico south to Argentina.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Samuel LeBarron

Locality: Tabacón, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica.

Made with Flickr