The Smelliest Titan of All
The smelliest flower is also the tallest blooming flower of all. The intriguing, quirky plant with today’s advanced abilities in gardening, is blooming in captivity more and more.
After waiting for years, the flower blooms suddenly, the huge bloom lasts only 24 to 48 hours and then almost as suddenly as it bloomed, poof. It’s gone and it won’t yield another bloom for years.
The Titans’ Incredible Growth Rate
The United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. says the magic of the Titan Arum comes from its great size — it is reputed to have the largest known unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom.
An interesting article in National Geographic says the Corpse Flower in preparation for just a few days of flowering, the plant must shed its leaf and sit dormant for up to four months to muster its energy reserves. Other resources say up to a year or more for it to lie dormant to gather the strength to bloom.
When it is ready to bloom, its growth is unprecedented. Usually, they don’t get as tall when grown in captivity as in the wild. It is reported when growing in the wild the flower reaches about nine to twelve feet tall, whereas, the cultivated plants reach five to six feet tall. Yet, seeing the growth in the cultivated odyssey is still exciting. Adrian Higgins, reporter for The Washington Post said on Saturday, July 15, 2013 its height on Saturday was 5 feet 2 inches, and it had grown five inches by midday Sunday. Can you imagine?
The Guinness Book of World Records did measure a Titan Arum at 10 feet 2.25 inches tall in 2010. This broke the Guinness World Records recorded entry in 2008 for a captive Titan which was over 8 feet tall.
Why So Smelly?
When it does bloom, it smells like putrid, decaying flesh. Fox DC says, “Its putrid smell is most potent during peak bloom at night into the early morning.”
According to a quote in The Washington Post: “Like a very dead elephant,” said Elliott Norman, the gardener who has been growing it since 2005, when it was the size of a pea. Its tuber alone may weigh as much as 90 pounds.
The reason for the awful smell is for it to attract bugs to it in order to pollinate it. How Stuff Works website says “because Titan Arum plants are located so far apart from one another and bloom so infrequently, they need to attract as much insect attention as possible to ensure pollination.”
Where to Go, Cost, and Location to See it Bloom
The United States Botanical Garden is extending its hours from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. on Monday, July 16, 2013, and Tuesday, July 17, 2013 allowing one to enjoy the blooming Titan Arum. There is no entrance fee to the U.S.Botanical Garden Washington, D.C.
Directions from About.com: The U.S. Botanic Garden is located across from the U.S. Capitol Building along First St. SW, between Maryland Ave. and C St. Bartholdi Park sits behind the Conservatory and is accessible from Independence Ave., Washington Ave. or First St. The closest Metro station is Federal Center SW.
Address: 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
About.com also has maps of the National Mall and how to get around it to see the Titan Arum bloom. As well as many images of United States Botanical Garden of Washington, D.C. for your enjoyment.
You can also see images of the blooming plant’s progress at the Botanical Gardens website.
More Interesting Information about Titan Arum
Wikipedia reports the titan arum grows in the wild only in the equatorial rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. It was first scientifically described in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari.
Incredibly, the very first cultivated Titan to bloom was in 1889 in London at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The first bloom in the United States was at New York Botanic Gardens in 1937. Currently, you can view cultivated Titans’ blooming at about five different places in the world each year.
The plant as it blooms, also gets warm — warm to body temperature. The warmth of the plant and the smell fools the bugs into thinking it is decaying flesh. The smell is so bad, it makes your eyes water and attracts bugs for miles around.
Gardeners used to feed this eccentric plant mice. You read that correctly, they used to feed it mice. Now they have perfected the growing of the Titan and prefer to give it blood and bonemeal instead.
The Titan Arum blooming this week at United States Botanic Garden Washington D.C. is the first bloom for this specific plant. It may not bloom again for ten to 18 years, but then again, it could bloom sooner than that. There is no specific bloom pattern for the plants and it is difficult to know if it is actually blooming or just growing stalks. The gardener did not know until last Monday, July 8th, 2013 this was truly a bloom and not a stalk sprouting.
The Titan Bloom Lasts Longer than Mr. Wilson’s Plant