Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Corpse Flower: Reloaded

One of the Amorphophallus titanum plants at the UConn greenhouses is preparing to flower again. This is the Titan Arum or Corpse Flower, or what visitors tend to ask about as "that big stinky plant." The last time we had a bloom was in 2008, and I did a fair amount of blogging about it, which I won't try to repeat, though there are some points worth noting.

The individual Titan Arum in question is UConn's plant #5, which was the first of its kind to bloom in New England, back in 2004, and which bloomed again in 2007. Strangely, the plant bloomed again in 2008, without first going through the normal period of vegetative growth. It had foliage over most of the past 3 years, and seems to be back on a proper growth cycle now: dormancy--leaf--dormancy--flowering--dormancy--leaf--etc.

As with the previous three inflorescences on Titan #5, the petal-like spathe is right-handed (i.e., it wraps around itself towards the viewer's right). Left-handed inflorescences are also possible with this species, from what I've seen in photos.

The frilly edge of the spathe is starting to look a little loose, and its interior has changed from greenish to purple-black over the past week or so, so the opening of the bloom is getting close. The growth of the spadix (central poke-y bit) has slowed down to about 3-4 cm per day, which is another indication that the inflorescence is nearly mature. I predicted a couple of weeks ago that the big stink would be on June 20th, and I'll stand by that guess for now, but it could easily be tomorrow. The exact day is difficult to judge, but on that day we'll know by mid-afternoon. There will be announcements on the greenhouse website as soon as we know, so you can rush to campus. The flowers last for only a day or two, and are really only in peak condition for a few hours the night they open.

Other distractions in the Asian tropical room include fruit on the banana plant (Musa, unknown seedless cultivar). I've eaten fruits from this plant before, and they seem more or less identical to the usual supermarket Cavendish.

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