Monday, June 23, 2008

UConn Corpse Flower Redux

Corpse Flower at the UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Greenhouses. Note lens cap on pot rim for scale.

It's official: the larger of the two mature Amorphophallus titanum plants here at the University of Connecticut is going to flower again, after last stinking up the joint Mother's Day weekend 2007. Normally, it takes about three years for a Titan Arum to rebloom. In the usual post-floral sequence, the inflorescence sets any seeds that it is going to set, then withers away, leaving a dormant corm underground. The corm sits for a number of months, then sends up a titanic leaf, which lasts about a year and a half. Then the plant enters another dormant phase before finally flowering again. The plant in the photo was totally dormant for 13 months, and then started sending up what turns out to be a second flower, without an intervening vegetative phase. This is seriously peculiar behavior, and as far as I can tell the first time that two flowers in a row have been observed in an individual of this species.

The corm of this plant weighed 92 pounds after it bloomed in 2007, and no doubt quite a bit more than that before it produced a nearly six foot inflorescence. Possibly, re-flowering is normal--if seldom observed in cultivation--for large Corpse Flowers that do not set seed the first time around (we didn't even try to pollinate it last year, because of worries that producing seed would use up too much of the plant's reserves. Apparently, it still has plenty of reserves). In any case, it will be interesting to see how this year's flowering event plays out.

As of this morning, the inflorescence was 35 inches (90 cm) from soil level to tip. Based on past blooms here at UConn, I'd expect it to open in about two weeks (ca. July 7). Stay tuned for more updates.

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