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.