Yes, we’re in Virginia, but my good friend, Jackie, from Ohio sent me information on a special flower about to bloom at Ohio State University, and what gardener isn’t interested in this kind of stuff?
Apparently, a very rare blooming of a Titan Arum is about to happen at OSU. I’ve never seen one and had heard about it only from a trip to England, because there’s a famous Titan Arum at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
This flower is not only rare but kind of weird. Titan Arum is known as the world’s largest tropical flower, but the plants can go many years without blooming and, when it happens, the bloom lasts only a couple of days. OSU had one bloom last year, too.
How rare are these bloomings? There have only been 150 recorded bloomings since they began keeping records. That’s rare.
Titans grow in the wild only in the rain forests of Sumatra and are listed as endangered. Nobody knows how many currently exist in the wild, but we do know that human encroachment on the rainforest is hurting their chances of survival.
The plant, which grows from a corm that can weigh up to 200 pounds, grows and stores energy for up to 10 years before it’s ready to flower. When it flowers, a central spike that looks like a giant ear of corn grows at a rate of up to 6″ per day and can eventually reach heights up to 9 feet. Most of those that bloom in cultivation raise to about 5 feet. When the growth of the spike slows to less than 1″ per day, the plant is getting ready to bloom.
When the bloom is open, it looks like an upturned bell. The pretty flower seems in stark contrast to the nasty smell the flower produces. Titan Arum is also known as the “corpse flower”, because of its foul odor that many say smells like rotting meat. The flowers also produce heat by themselves and can get so hot that they steam. The heat, of course, makes the smell worse.
Here’s how they pollinate: the smell attracts carcass-eating insects and when they crawl in, the outer leaf closes and traps them inside. The male flowers discharge their pollen, the leaf opens again, the insects run out and rub the pollen onto the female flowers as they pass. After fertilization, the plants develop bright red fruits the size of olives.
After about three days, the flower dies away, and the single leaf produced grows into a tree-like plant that can get to heights of 20′ and a spread of 15′ across. Then the corm begins storing energy and the whole process starts over again.
OSU has a website up, including a webcam to watch the blooming in progress. There’s also a time lapse video of last year’s blooming. Trip to Ohio, anyone?