Posts Tagged ‘Corpse Flower’

I recently saw, and smelled, a blooming Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus sp.) for the first time, and it was amazing!

The genus Amorphophallus is comprised of about 200 species that generally inhabit secondary forests of in the tropics and subtropics of Africa and the Pacific Islands.  The plants grow from a stem that is underground, called a tuber or corm, and from this stem they grow one leaf.  But, this is no ordinary leaf.  It can grow vertically up to 2 or 3 meters tall.  The petiole can get to be around 15 cm across, and is cool and smooth to the touch.  At the top it then splits into three horizontal blades that each have many leaflets.  It is a very beautiful leaf with the petiole a mottled pattern of light and dark green, and the leaflets a bright fresh green.  The overall impression is that it is a tree, and not a single leaf.  Each leaf lasts only one growing season before it dies back, so these plant are deciduous.  The plant will grow several leaves, over several growing seasons, to accumulate nutrients in the corm.

Once it has enough stored energy, which generally takes 3 to 6 years, it will bloom.  The single blossom can be huge!  It is a spectacular deep, dark red and black flower and it smells like something between rotten meat and spoiled fish.  The smell can be oppressive.  The one that I got to see was in the UC Davis Plant Conservatory, and the back third of the greenhouse was filled with smell.  Flies are attracted to this smell and are the insect pollinator for the flower.  The flies are so convinced that they have found a wonderful food source that they often go so far as to lay their eggs in the flower.  Flowers of the species in this genus must be pollinated the same day they open.  Once the female parts of the flower have been pollinated, the male parts (which had been concealed) open and begin to release pollen.

If anyone is on the Davis area, I would highly recommend paying the Plant Conservatory a visit and checking out the Corpse Flower while it is still blooming.  If you do not make it to see this plant’s flower, there is another Corpse Flower plant that is  likely to bloom next year and that one is even bigger!

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