Amorphophallus titanum: the corpse flower with the world’s largest inflorescence

Amorphophallus Titanum

Every time an Amorphophallus titanum or corpse flower blooms in the world, it attracts thousands of visitors and headlines.

Because of its size, rapid growth and its terrible characteristic (a disgusting smell of rotten meat), the Aro titanum or Amorphophallus titanum, this is the botanical name of the plant belonging to the Araceae family, of which the common callae, endemic to the island of Sumatra, are part, is long awaited and desired.

Flowering of Amorphophallus titanum

Its flowering, in fact, takes place on average after 5-6 years, but the wait, however, is short (the flowering lasts 3-4 days).
The “fragrance” recalls rotting flesh, attracting beetles that eat carrion and flies (family Sarcophagidae) that pollinate it.
The intense red colour and the consistency of the inflorescence contribute to the illusion that the bract is a piece of meat.
During flowering, the tip of the spadix assumes a temperature similar to that of the human body, which helps to evaporate the scent; it is believed that this heat further contributes to the illusion that it attracts insects.

Both male and female flowers grow in the same inflorescence.
The female flowers open first, then after a day or two the male flowers open.
This usually prevents the flower from pollinating itself.

The Discovery

The plant, which can weigh up to 75 kilos, was discovered in 1878 by the Florentine explorer, zoologist, botanist and etmologist Odoardo Beccari who brought the tubers and seeds of the Amorphophallus Titanum to the Botanical Garden of Florence, of which he became director.
While the tubers died, the sprouted seeds were distributed in several botanical gardens around the world.
The first flowering took place at Kew Gardens in 1889.

The plant owes its name to the gigantic inflorescence, whose heart resembles a huge phallus that emanates a smell of dung mixed with rotting organic matter to attract insects for pollination, so much so that those who approach it for a long time, face it with a gas mask.