Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Corpse Flower 2013

For the third summer in a row, the University of Connecticut greenhouses are going to have a flowering Amorphophallus titanum. The inflorescence has been shooting up at about 10 cm per day since it broke out of its bud scales last week, and is now 117 cm tall. The rate of growth has slowed a little bit recently and the inside of the spathe is developing some reddish color, so I suspect we'll see an open bloom in less than a week's time.

Long term readers will recall that previous Titan Arums here at UConn have had yellow spadices; this plant will be the first that I've seen in person with a purple spadix. The current inflorescence is from a different batch of seed than the previous flowerings, which were grown from seed collected in Sumatra in 1994. This one is only about 10 years old, and was started from seed produced by cross-pollinating plants from the 1990s cohort grown in California. The plant's mother actually germinated here at UConn, so the father was possibly a purple form, or our original plants were actually a mix of the purple and yellow color morphs, and it was a matter of chance that the two plants kept here at UConn happened to be the yellow form. Or possibly purple is recessive and can turn up in crosses of two yellow plants; I'm not sure how spadix color is inherited in A. titanum. In any event it will be an interesting change to have a purple-spadix plant in flower.

 Edited to add: This year's Corpse Flower was kind of a flop. Nine days after the photo above, the spathe did pull back a bit and there was some odor, but it never really fully opened. Possibly, this young plant was still too small to properly sustain a bloom. The other mature plant of A. titanum at UConn is sending up a leaf, though, and I hope that it has a nice long growing period to bulk up its tuber and put on a proper flowering event in 2015 or so.