Monday, July 29, 2013

The Corpse Plant . . . a flower only Living Dead Girl could love!

A place that is near and dear to my heart is Sumatra, Indonesia.  Although I’ve never traveled there, I am well aware of the region.  One of my favorite animals resides there, the orangutan. 

Sumatra is home to tropical rainforests; and has been known to have a huge range of plant and animal species.  In the last 35 years it has lost almost 50 percent of its tropical rainforest, leaving many species critically endangered such as Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Orangutan and Sumatran Rhino.  This is mostly due to deforestation.  An estimated 73 percent of all logging in Indonesia is believed to be illegal.  All of this due to the demand for palm oil.

Without going into too much more detail about how deforestation and palm oil are destroying rainforests and animals, I wanted to share something rare with you.  This is something that is also in danger of extinction.

The titan arum (amorphophallus titanium), or otherwise known as the corpse plant, which is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia.  This plant was first discovered in 1878.  It has the largest known unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom.

This plant has so many unique things about it.  For instance, it doesn’t have an annual blooming cycle.  It is very unpredictable in that its flowering cycle can span between a few years to decades.

When the plant starts its blooming process it emerges from an underground stem.  This is also where it stores energy.  It blooms only when sufficient energy is accumulated after several years.  Once it is fully open, it only remains in bloom for 24 to 48 hours.

It also has a “special” odor.  Once fully bloomed, the plant emits an odor that resembles rotting flesh.  The odor attracts pollinators like the dung and carrion beetles.  The odor is most potent in the early morning hours or late evening hours.

In the wild these plants can weigh up to and over 200 pounds and reach a height of 12 feet tall.

My husband and I were lucky enough to have a chance to experience one of these rare plants this month in DC at the Botanical Gardens where there was one on display.  They have had this plant since 2007 and this was the first time that it has bloomed for them.

For me this was a very special opportunity to experience a part of the Sumatran rainforest.  It was exciting to watch this plant as it slowly bloomed and then very quickly withered away.  Such an amazing part of nature!

Below is a photo collage of the plant in all its glory!  Enjoy!

Titan arum aka corpse plant


  1. That is so rad. It looks like it's a space movie prop. The macabre association reeled me in, I can't lie. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Helmey! It does look like a prop. I had a temporary obsession with wanting to smell the stench! LOL