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Botanic Garden press release   Date: 9/17/12 Bookmark and Share

At the Botanic Garden: Rare Flowering of the Unusual and Remarkable Titan Arum

The odiferous Titan Arum, blooming soon in the Botanic Garden

One of the great jewels of the plant kingdom, the Titan Arum, or Amorphophallus titanum, is about to flower for the third time in the Lyman Conservatory at the Botanic Garden of Smith College. Our Titan first bloomed in 2005, and then again in 2008, and remains the only Titan Arum ever to bloom in Massachusetts.

The Titan Arum, known colloquially as the “corpse flower,” is native to the lowland rainforests on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, and boasts flower stalks up to 9 feet high. The plants produce a large, single dissected leaf. Over years, the underground storage organ, known as a corm, grows larger. Once the corm reaches a critical size, the plant may send up a flower usually every three to five years, but it is unpredictable. When our corm was weighed in mid-August it was 54 pounds. The flowering stalk of the Titan Arum is a spectacular sight; from a pleated skirt of scarlet rises a towering yellow spadix (the spike that holds all the small individual flowers). Its aroma is even more infamous, which is the origin of its name, the corpse flower. The flower emits the overpowering scent of rotten flesh, used to lure the insects that pollinate it.

Our plant was raised from seed brought to the United States by the late Dr. James Symon, a physician who became one of the world experts on Amorphophallus. He collected seed in an abandoned rubber plantation in the town of Aeksah, in Sumatra, and this seed was distributed to universities and botanical institutions, including the University of Connecticut, which, in 2002, donated a successfully germinated corm to the Botanic Gardens at Smith College.

The rare bloom is short lived and we expect blooming to occur very soon in the coming week, but it is difficult to predict exactly when it will be in full bloom.

Our Titan Arum is located in the Palm House, near the doorway leading out to the rock garden. The Lyman Conservatory on College Lane in Northampton is open to the public daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is wheelchair-accessible.

Check online and our Facebook page for the latest photos and information on this ticking stink bomb to make sure you arrive in time.

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