Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Amorphophallus Update, July 2

61.5 inches (156 cm), two inches taller than yesterday.

There was a nasty smell in the greenhouses this morning, and I was momentarily worried that the Titan had decided to flower last night, and that I had missed it. A bit of hunting turned up the real source, though: several plants of Amorphophallus bulbifer were in bloom. These plants are much smaller than A. titanum, with blooms only about eight inches tall, but they give off a penetrating odor of outhouse, overcooked cabbage and dead animal that is actually fairly close to the smell of the Corpse Flower, qualitatively if not quantitatively. In the A. bulbifer photo below, you can make out the female florets (globose structures at the very base of the spadix, inflorescence on the right) and the male florets (pale fuzzy zone directly above the female florets).
Amorphophallus bulbifer.

The blooms of different Amorphophallus species produce quite a variety of odors. Amorphophallus titanum, A. bulbifer and A. prainii are sulfurous and cabbagey, while A. konjac and A. paeonifolius have a more straightforward dead-rat-in-the-wall smell. Amorphophallus odoratus has a funny, almost artificial smell, sort of like deodorant. These odors attract various sorts of insect pollinators, often flies or other carrion feeders, who are tricked into thinking they've found a meal. In its native Sumatra, the primary pollinators of A. titanum are apparently sweat bees.


Bill Reid said...

Hey! Is there any way to visit this beast? I live in Eastern Connecticut and would love to see this thing?

Matt said...

Yes: check out this page for details. Special hours are listed on the main UConn greenhouse page. For MapQuest/GPS purposes, the greenhouses are at 75 North Eagleville Rd, Storrs, Ct 06269