Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Fantastic Present for the Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens | Amorphophallus titanum

© John Varigos, 2012
© John Varigos, 2012
Hey Everyone,

I'm back from Bundaberg... And Binna Burra.  We came home early from Bundaberg because it wasn't as enjoyable as we'd expected it would be.  The turtles were absolutely AMAZING!  It was so much fun seeing them, but I'll tell you all about that in another post.  Since my last post I've also been up to Binna Burra again, in the Gold Coast Hinterland, and that was amazing... plenty of photos of that to share too, but as I said, later.

In my blogging absence, I was delighted to hear that one of the Melbourne Royal Botanical Garden's Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan Aurum, has flowered.  When I was down there in late November (the 25th to be exact), I saw the bud of the flower, however at that stage it had not developed enough to tell wether or not it was going to grow into a flower, or a leaf.

Amorphophallus titanum is from sumatra and belongs in the Araceae family, thus meaning it's an Aroid.

The bud as I saw it on the 25th Nov.
According to the International Aroid Society, Inc. 
"The Araceae are a family of ... 125 genera and about 3750 species...
The vast majority of the genera occur in the New World tropics. Members of the family are highly diverse in life forms, leaf morphology, and inflorescence characteristics. Life forms range from submerged or free-floating aquatics to terrestrial (sometimes tuberous), and to epiphytic or hemiepiphytic plants or climbers. Leaves range from simple and entire to compound and highly divided, and may be basal or produced from an aerial stem. The family is best characterized by its distinctive inflorescence, a spadix with bisexual or unisexual (sometimes with sterile region) and subtended by a solitary spathe on a long or very short peduncle."

I just realised something really exciting... and very weird at the same time.... I COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD WHAT ALL THAT FANCY BOTANICAL JIBBER JABBER MEANT! How cool/weird is that?!

Anyways, back to the star of the show.

So that I get my information correct and up to date, I would like to write for you what the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens had on their information signs about this wonderful flower, but before I do I would very much like to thank an acquaintance of mine John Varigos (who has answered many of my orchid related questions, no matter how simple or complex).  John has very kindly let me use his wonderful photos of the Amorphophallus titanum in flower on my blog, therefore, please, do not copy these images unless you have John's express permission, I would hate to have abused his trust.  Sadly, unlike John, I wasn't lucky enough to see this Sumatran giant in full glory so the next best thing is to see some lovely photos and I just had to share.  The flower opened on christmas day, and started to collapse the day after boxing day (27th Dec.).

© John Varigos, 2012

"Titan Arum

Amorphophallus titanum

The Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is known as the largest unbranched inflorescence (cluster of flowers) in the world.  It is famous for its smell which is likened to rotting flesh!  For this reason it is also known as Corpse Flower or Bungs Bangkai.

The first Titan Arum was discovered in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in Sumatra, Indonesia.  It can still be found growing in rainforest, particularly in the mountain ranges in West Sumatra.  However, it is now considered to be vulnerable in the wild.

Since its discovery, botanic gardens around the world have attempted to encourage the plant to bloom in order to study and conserve the species.  However, highly sophisticated cultivation protocols are required to bring this plant into flower, so prior to 1989, flowering events in botanic gardens were extremely rare, with only 21 flowering events recorded worldwide.  Since 1990 approximately 80 instances of flowering have been recorded in botanic gardens across the globe.

This tuber was donated to the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne in 2006 by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney.

After sevens years of careful nurturing by Royal Botanic Gardens Nursery staff, the stunning Titan Arum is expected to reach full bloom during the week of Christmas.

the leaf of an Amorphophallus titanum
The plant will feature a display of small flowers inside the base.  The exact day of the bloom is difficult to determine, however once flowering, the inflorescence may only last two to three days before collapsing.  The Titan Arum is usually pollinated by flies or beetles which are attracted to the powerful fragrance the flowers give off upon opening.

This Titan Arum is currently growing at a rate of around 10+ centimetres per day!  It is estimated to reach between 2-3 metres in height.

Fast Facts
* The tuber can remain dormant for 1-3 years
* When active, the tuber may produce either a gigantic leaf (up to 6m tall) or an inflorescence which may reach 3m tall
* once flowering, the inflorescence may only last two to three days before collapsing
* the largest tuber ever recorded weighed 117kg
* The largest inflorescence ever recorded was 3.06m
* When fully open, the tiny female flowers omit a strong smell to attract a pollinator including insects, beetles or flies
*After pollination the Titan Arum will develop an infructescence with orange red berries

For further information: SIBBALDIA: The Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, No. 5"
Source: Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, 2012

Well, I know one little gardener who's ready for bed,
Goodnight and Happy Gardening Everyone,
And I hope that those of you caught up in these DREADFUL fires at the moment, stay safe, and may your friends and loved ones stay likewise too.



  1. Michael, not sure whether you saw may Facebook post re a second flowering

    1. Hey John, wow, that is so cool and fantastic. I'll have to do an "edit" and include that. Thanks so much

  2. My friend got to go see the flower. Truly a once in a lifetime experience!

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