Amorphophallus titanum - FAQs
Titan arum • the stink • the bloom • lifecycle • research/conservation • stinky shop • faqs
Our Stinky Expert answers your most frequently asked questions about Amorphophallus titanum.
Do you have a question? Ask our Stinky Expert!
hollyemail: How do you pollinate it once the bloom opens?
Stinky Expert: Very carefully! No really, this is a great question. A good quality paintbrush, preferably sable, is used to dab up the “donor pollen” and is applied to the receptive stigmas of the female flowers on the first night it opens, or on the following morning. The window of opportunity for this is roughly one day, for on the first day after opening, the male flowers shed their pollen and by this time the female flowers are no longer receptive. This prevents autogamy, or self-pollination, in order to maximize the distribution of genes and maintain presumably more adaptive genetic diversity.
francesgee: In which types of climates does the Titan Arum thrive best, if someone were to purchase the plant at The Huntington and transplant it into a home garden here in Southern CA?
Stinky Expert: Native to the equatorial rain forests of Sumatra, Titan Arum thrives best in an evenly warm and humid environment such as a greenhouse. We recently received a picture from someone who had one blooming in a container in his backyard in Seal Beach.
aswinter: How long does it take for the bloom (inflorescence) to actually open? Minutes? Hours?
Stinky Expert: Actual bloom time varies, but in 1999, it was 7 hours from when the bloom started to open until it was fully open.
hswork: What taxonomic class, order, and family does genus Amorphophallus titanum belong to?
Stinky Expert: Family: Araceae, Order: Arales, Class: Liliopsida (monocots)
rab5: Once it flowers, how long before it closes down? In other words, once we get word that it's in bloom, how quickly should we get over there and take a look?
Stinky Expert: A Titan Arum in bloom is as rare as it is spectacular. A plant can go for many years without flowering, and when it does the bloom lasts only 1, 2 or sometimes 3 days. We'll keep you posted right here!
bill0976: I think I have one growing in my yard. Is that possible?
Stinky Expert: Great question! While Amorphophallus titanum is very rare, many similar (but much smaller) plants can be found growing in home gardens. The closest relative may be Amorphophalus rivieri, which grows to a height of about four feet and smells nearly as bad as its larger cousin. Two other related plants are the Dragon Arum (Dracunculus vulgaris), pictured at right, which grows to about two to three feet in height, and the Voodoo Lily (Sauromatum venosum), which grows to 12 to 18 inches in overall height. Calla Lilies, anthuriums, and philodendrons are also members of the same family.
eosturtz: What did The Huntington have to do in order to produce this flower?
Stinky Expert: Nothing – we’re The Huntington! No really, we didn’t do anything special, we just gave it a warm environment like its home in Sumatra, and stood back.
dnkb5: Is the plant also known as Rafflesia?
Stinky Expert: No, Rafflesia, although also from Indonesia and other parts of southeast Asia, is in a different family and unrelated to Amorphophallus. Rafflesia has the distinction of having the largest individual flower, up to about 3 feet across.
7yhot00: Can I buy my own Stinky plant?
Stinky Expert: Yes, they are widely available via the internet.
jkl089: I smelled it in 2002. It stinks! What makes it smell like rotten meat?
Stinky Expert: The chemicals responsible for the odor were once thought to be putrescine and cadaverine, which are the chemicals that produce the odor in decaying animal flesh. Researchers recently analyzed the odors of several species of Amorphophallus, and found the chemicals responsible for that of A. titanum (and other species) to be dimethyl disulfide and dimethyl trisulfide. As a comparison, one of the chemicals responsible for the odor of rotten eggs is hydrogen sulfide.
maryt77: Is the one that's going to bloom a male or female plant?
Stinky Expert: Both - even though it's commonly referred to as the world’s largest “flower,” the Titan Arum is really a cluster of flowers called an inflorescence. Hundreds of tiny flowers are hidden at the base of the spadix. These flowers are where pollination occurs and where fruit and seeds develop. The plants in nature do not fertilize themselves; the female flowers open first and are only receptive for a short time, after which the male flowers open. This ensures cross-pollination and prevents inbreeding.