Background: Amorphophallus titanum (titan arum)

The common name of titan arum was developed by Sir David Attenborough while filming The Private Life of Plants, the Latin name (translated as 'giant misshapen penis') being thought inappropriate for a BBC audience.

The native habitat of the plant is the equatorial jungles of western Sumatra in Indonesia; it was first discovered there in 1878 by the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. Beccari believed that the leaf was the trunk of a tree colonised by lichens, rather than a huge leaf stem sprinkled with a pattern of light spots. He sent corms (a type of tuber) and seeds to his friend Marquis Bardo Corsi Salviati for the greenhouses of his villa in Sesto Fiorentino, Tuscany. The corms were destroyed at customs, but the seeds were passed and successfully germinated at the villa. The following year the Marquis was able to send small tubers of Amorphophallus titanum to various botanical gardens across Europe.

Unfortunately all of the seedlings growing at Sesto died; however at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew the plants, entrusted to experienced gardeners, were cultivated with success. The pot containing the plants were kept in a greenhouse, partially submerged in a tub of warm water to keep the plant in a constant warm and humid environment, similar to that of its place of origin.

After 10 years, on 22 June 1889, the plant flowered to a height of 205cm (6ft 9in). It was an exceptional event, the first time that the A. titanum had flowered in cultivation, and the first time that the western world had the opportunity of seeing a living flower, previously only known through Beccari's writings.

Since then the plant has flourished in botanical gardens around the world, always inspiring great interest and attention, although there wasn't a flowering in Beccari's native Italy until 2002.

There had never been a recorded flowering in Scotland. Our records indicate that a plant was at RBGE in the 1960s but we have had no recorded flowerings until 2015.

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Image of Scotlands first Titan Arum flower at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 26th June 2015

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)