Amorphophallus titanum, a.k.a. the “Corpse Plant”, was discovered in 1878 by the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in Sumatra in the Indonesia Archipelago. Not only was it found in Sumatra, but they are ONLY found there. It is named for the incredibly gagging affect of its aroma, a stench of rotting flesh that its “flower” produces. It is the largest “cluster of flowers” in the world and lives in the same locations as the actual world’s largest single flower bloom, the Rafflesia arnoldii. It blooms so rare in captivity that there have only been 11 recorded blooms in the United States, the first of which was at the New York Botanical Garden in 1937. When the flower is fully formed and in bloom the odor is strongest at night where it is thought to attract pollinating insects like carrion beetles and sweat bees back in its native Sumatra. In the wild it will become much more magnificent than in a captive environment.
The Corpse Plant’s spadix (the fleshy central column where thousands of its true flowers are located) can reach over 6 feet tall. It is this spadix that enraptures most guests that come to view it, with the tallest recorded spadix reaching 10 feet tall. In addition, when open, the spathe (the large and ruffled edged leafy structure that surrounds the spadix) can reach over 3 feet across. The tuber from which it grows can get over 170 pounds. The flower will only last unfurled for approximately two days. This is truly one huge flower specimen and if you are near one of the locations where you can view one, I encourage you to go (but bring a painters mask or something to cover your mouth and nose).
This flower doesn’t live like a normal flower at all. Where other flowers bloom more than once and have many leaves on its stalk, the Corpse Plant has a single umbrella looking leaf that will appear alternately with the flower. The single leaf will reach over 12 feet in height and in the wild will have a stalk up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet across. The Corpse Plant’s leaf will live around a year and then die. The massive tuber, that controls the growth and size for the entire plant, will then become dormant after this initial leaf sprout and death, and then will produce another leaf or flower. An odd life cycle, for an even odder plant.