A collection of wildlife photographs

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Corpse Plant flowering Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

From 18 July 2015, one of the Titan Arum Amorphophallus titanum plants in the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens opened fully into flower. This is a rare event, last happening at these Botanic Gardens in 2004. The Titan Arum is native to Sumatra in Indonesia however is now classed as vulnerable to extinction. This vulnerability of its population in the wild is due to habitat loss in the form of deforestation, and this is primarily due to creation of palm oil plantations.

The plant grows vegetatively, with above ground leaves and shoots, and then dies back into its tuber to emerge again as the flower. The tuber from which this individual flowered from this year was well below the average flowering weight of 15kg. This species is a relative of Lords and Ladies Arum maculatum which is native to Britain, however our native species is noticeably smaller than this Sumatran giant.

This species is also known as the Corpse Plant, due to emitting the smell of rotting flesh when in full flower. The inside of the flower heats up during the few nights that the flower remains open and releases sulphurous compounds to the surrounding air. This helps to attract Carrion Beetles and Blow Flies as pollinators from the area. These invertebrates would hopefully deposit pollen from another Titan Arum onto the sticky, female Stigma structures inside the flower.

Below are three photos. The first is of the Titan Arum preparing to flower on 15 July 2015 and the final two are of the Titan Arum on the second night of full flowering (19 July 2015 at 10pm). The smell was apparently much more unpleasant on the first night of flowering, and by the time I saw it it smelt like cheese.

Titan Arum preparing to flower (15 July 2015)
Titan Arum on the second night of full flowering 1/2 (19 July 2015)

Titan Arum on the second night of full flowering 2/2 (19 July 2015)

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