Thursday, July 10, 2008

Corpse Flower Finale

This year's Titan Arum is pretty much done. The spathe is starting to wither, and the spadix is pock-marked with the small pits and bumps that develop when the bloom is spent. Since the inflorescence was not pollinated, the whole aboveground structure will wither away within a few weeks, leaving a tuber that will stay dormant below the soil surface for a couple of months to a year, before sending up a leaf. If we had acquired pollen from another Corpse Flower and applied it to the female florets on the first night, a cluster of red berries containing seeds would have developed.

Just visible on the lower left side of the spathe in the photo above is a hole I cut into the side of the structure, to expose the male a female florets at the base of the spadix for visitors to see. Here's what the interior looked like yesterday afternoon (the day after opening):
The yellow bumps on top are the male florets, and the reddish flask-shaped structures below are the female florets. Pollen hasn't been shed yet, and the females are receptive on the first night, so that self-pollination is unlikely. And that's really the whole point of the giant, stinky flower: it draws in pollinators from a wide area, and some of the insects bring in pollen from other Corpse Flowers, so that the plant can produce seed that isn't inbred.

Today (two days after opening), the same flowers look like the image below:
The stringy, powdery stuff coming from the male flowers is the pollen. I've heard that in the wild, insects tend to get trapped inside of the inflorescence early on, but have an easier time escaping when the bloom starts to wilt, after the pollen has been shed. With a bit of luck, the pollen-covered sweat bees and carrion beetles will not have learned their lesson, and will be lured to another, freshly-opened Corpse Flower somewhere else in the jungle.

That's probably just about it for the Corpse Flower commentary here at Burger's Onion, though I may post a picture or two of the inflorescence's disintegration. Otherwise, plan on a return to the usual schedule of short articles, mostly about funny little South African desert plants, about one per month.

1 comment:

cmorse said...

At least one more parting shot of Amorphophallus flaccidus please..