Sep 30, 2009

Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum)


Kingdom: Plantae

(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots

Order : Alismatales

Family : Araceae

Subfamily: Aroideae

Tribe : Thomsonieae

Genus : Amorphophallus

Species : A. titanum



The titan arum or Amorphophallus titanum (from Ancient Greek amorphos, "without form, misshapen" + phallos, "penis", and titan, "giant") is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. The largest single flower is borne by the Rafflesia arnoldii; the largest branched inflorescence in the plant kingdom belongs to the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera). It thrives at the edges of rainforests near open grasslands. Though found in many botanic gardens around the world it is still indigenous only to the tropical forests of Sumatra. Due to its fragnance, which is reminiscent of the smell of a decomposing mammal, the titan arum is also known as a carrion flower, the "Corpse flower", or "Corpse plant" (in Indonesia, "bunga bangkai" – bunga means flower, while bangkai means corpse or cadaver; for the same reason, the same title is also attributed to Rafflesia which, like the titan arum, also grows in the rainforests of Sumatra).

The spectacular titan arum produces the world’s largest compound flower or inflorescene; the largest of which is reported to have reached 3.5 metres tall . Years may pass between flowering events but when the time does come this plant produces a truly spectacular bloom. A large bud appears on the forest floor and with remarkable speed the flower grows and opens to its full size. As with all members of the Arum family the inflorescence consists of a petal-like structure known as a ‘spathe’ and a flower-bearing spike, the ‘spadix’; the whole structure is borne on a stout stalk only 25 – 35 cm high. The spathe resembles an upturned bell with a frilly margin, the outside is pale green but when it unfurls the inner crimson walls are displayed. The spadix emerges above the spathe, the upper portion is known as the appendix and is brownish-yellow in colour.

The male and female flowers are situated on the lower portions of the spadix where they are sheltered by the giant spathe. The tightly packed cream male flowers are found in a band above the female flowers. Once pollinated, the female flowers develop into olive-sized bright red fruits that are carried in cylindrical clusters up to half a metre long. The single leaf of the titan arum is also gigantic in size; resembling a small tree rather than a leaf, it can tower up to 5 metres tall and divides into an umbrella-like canopy that can be 7 metres across.

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