Rare Corpse Flower bloom set for stinky debut

06 January 2023

One of the world's most notoriously foul-smelling plant species is set to bloom at Adelaide Botanic Garden in the coming days.

The rare and endangered Corpse Flower, or Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum), is known for its highly pungent, rotting flesh-like odour, and eye-catching flower display, which it uses to attract insects for pollination.

The nine-year-old plant, which was propagated using leaf cuttings of an already established Titan Arum plant, will flower for the first time in its life cycle and represents a significant local conservation success.

Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium (BGSH) horticultural curator Matt Coulter said the plant, native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has had many parts of its natural habitat impacted by rainforest deforestation and BGSH is part of a global effort to conserve the species.

"These plants are very difficult to grow and induce flowering in cultivation and away from their natural habitat, and we learn something new every time a Titan Arum plant flowers," he said.

"With parts of their natural habitat being cleared, we need to work with other worldwide partners to share knowledge and help conserve the Titan Arum.

"Samples for DNS genotyping, propagation techniques, plant tubers and even strange growth occurrences are shared with other institutions across the world who are also looking out for this species."

This plant represents BGSH's 12th flowering Titan Arum plant but the first produced by a 'second-generation' cultivated plant.

Mr Coulter said while it is likely to be the smallest flower compared to previous blooms the plant's stinky smell should be just as potent.

"We've run a successful propagation program since 2013 which has seen a total of 100 Titan Arum plants be propagated in Adelaide all using a variety of leaf cutting techniques," he said.

"While this flower is likely to be smaller than some of our previous blooms, it is still an average size by world standards and the aroma will be equally as strong

"Now that we've got to the stage where these second-generation plants - which we've cultivated from leaf cuttings - are flowering we're expecting to be able to have a large number of plants flower in the coming years."

BGSH director Michael Harvey said the expert knowledge of key staff has been the major factor behind seeing so many Titan Arum flowers in the past few years, and he hopes to see this continue.

"These plants are difficult to cultivate in a controlled environment so it's a testament to the skills and expertise of our staff that we've had so much success preserving and growing our collection of this highly endangered species," he said.

It's free to experience the Corpse Flower, which can be found in the Bicentennial Conservatory.

The flowering event only lasts up to 48 hours, with the notorious smell being strongest in the first 24 hours.

The timing of the flowering can be difficult to predict so keep an eye on the BGSH social media channels and website for updates on exactly when the flowering will occur.

BGSH advises that attendees bring sunscreen, a hat and a water bottle in the event of extreme heat.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/CorpseFlower202...

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