About the plant
Amorphophallus titanum, titan arum, corpse plant or New Reekie are all names for a remarkable plant which originates from Sumatra.
The Garden has strong links with South East Asia, and in particular Indonesia; we have been working in this part of the world for about 70 years. RBGE scientists and horticulturists have visited Sumatra, home of the titan arum, several times and are studying many plant families from the region, including the gingers (Zingiberaceae), begonias (Begoniaceae) and African violets (Gesneriaceae).
Recently RBGE have collaborated with scientists in the region to help ensure the titan arum was listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, allowing for further focus on conservation of the plant in the wild.
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The Amorphophallus titanum first flowered in cultivation at Royal Botanic Garden Kew on 22 June 1889. It is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, with Louis Ricciardiello (New Hampshire, USA) holding the current Guinness World Record for the “tallest bloom” in cultivation at 3.1m. The tallest recorded bloom ever of an Amorphophallus titanum flower ever was 3.73m (12ft 3in) at Cibodas Botanic Garden, West Java, Indonesia.
Prior to RBGE’s flower, there was no record of an Amorphophallus titanum flowering before in Scotland.
Amorphophallus titanum is often called the largest flower in the world but that title actually belongs to Rafflesia arnoldii. Amorphophallus titanum is actually an inflorescence - a collection of male and female flowers - and, at 3 metres tall, it is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world.
Amorphophallus titanum is a monocot (the same group of flowering plants as grasses and lilies). It is related to Monstera deliciosa (the Swiss cheese plant), Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lily), Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily) and British native Arum maculatum (cuckoo-pint or Lords and Ladies). Most of these plants share distinctive floral, fruiting and storage structures.
The spathe is the large bell shaped structure with a frilly edge up to three metres in circumference which encloses the spadix and opens for only 2 to 4 days. The spadix is the central spike which bears the male and female flowers. The female flowers open first, one or two days before the male flowers mature, in order to encourage cross-pollination. During blooming the spadix heats up to human body temperature. The plant emits a strong nauseating smell like rotting flesh when the flower is ready for pollination which is thought to attract carrion flies which act as pollinators.
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