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Frequently Asked Questions About the Titan Arum
By Dr. C. Eugene Jones, Leo Song, & Bob Allen.
- How big is the flower?
- The central column, or spadix, can attain a height of nine
feet. The spathe, which surrounds the spadix, can be three feet
across and the edges four feet above ground level.
- How long will it remain in flower?
- The stench will last a day. Collapse of the spadix takes
place after three to five days.
- To what other plants is it related?
- Titan Arum is a member of the Family Araceae, the Aroids or
Arum plants. Other members of this family are the Anthuriums,
Calla Lilies, Philodendrons, and Dieffenbachia.
- Where is Titan Arum from?
- It is native to the rain forests of central Sumatra in
Indonesia. Other closely related species in the genus include
the Giant Arum, Amorphophallus gigas, native to ?
- When was it discovered and by whom?
- In 1878 an Italian botanist, Odoardo Beccari, discovered it
- What does the flower smell like?
- It smells like rotting fish. Natives in Sumatra locate the
flower by smell from up to fifty yards away. Sometimes it is so
strong that people cannot stand to be near it! According to a
web page at Kew
Gardens, Dr Geoffrey Kite was able to trap the odor and
determine that the major constituents were dimethyl disulphide
and dimethyl trisulphide, two compounds with sickening smells
(something like rotting eggs).
- Why does the flower smell so bad?
- Presumably, to attract insects that normally feed on dead
animals ("carrion"). Carrion-loving insects include many
species of flies, carrion beetles, and wasps. While in the
flower, the insects carry pollen from one plant to another,
pollinating the flowers. Competition for pollinators is great
in the tropics due to very high diversity. By utilizing a group
of insects not usually associated with pollination, for
example, bees, the plant taps into another pool of pollen
- What happens after it flowers?
- If the flower was successfully pollinated, the surrounding
spath eventually falls off exposing the maturing seeds. When
ripe, the seeds turn a bright orange-red, which is probably
attractive to birds which pick them off, eating the flesh and
discarding the "pit" or seed. In this way, the plant is
- Can I use your photographs?
- Yes! You are welcome to use these images for
non-commercial, educational purposes such as school reports,
presentations, and notes.
- They may also be used freely by the printed media
(television, newspapers, magazines, web) if you cite our web
site as the source. If you do use any of our material, we would
appreciate a copy of what you produce.
- The images may not be included within any kind of a
commercial package (such as a clip art package).
- For information regarding use, contact Bob
Allen or Leo
- Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants. A Natural
History of Plant Behavior. Princeton University Press, Princeton,
NJ. ISBN 0-691-00639-3. See pages 134-140, photographs on
frontispiece and on pages 135, 137, 138.
- Heywood, V.H., editor. 1985. Flowering Plants of the World.
Croom Helm, London. ISBN 0-7099-3778-4. See pages 307-309.
Revised 07 June 2000.