Watch it progress chronologically. For the latest image, see bottom of this column or look at top of left column.
Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum
|18 June 2007|
|We first began to suspect that the small bud emerging from the Arum's large pot could possibly be a flower and not a leaf on Friday, June 8th. Pictured here on June 18th, the bud has expanded to 31" tall and 8.5" wide.|
|19 June 2007|
|The Titan Arum flower bud continues to expand - growing 2" in height since yesterday. It will remain in the greenhouse until nearer to opening (estimating 10 - 14 days from now), when we plant to move it outdoors to the greenhouse courtyard for its public debut!|
|20 June 2007|
|Today the sheath of the bud has just begun to separate - we can see the immature spike poking out, as well as the immature bract portion of what will become the flower. The overall height today is 34".|
|21 June 2007|
|The spike has grown by 5 inches today - poking further out of the protective leaf sheaths. The folds of what will develop into the frilly "cloak", called a spathe are more visible. Even though we can see these parts of the developing inflorescence, at 39 inches "Bella" is still a long way from blooming.|
|22 June 2007|
|3 more inches today. Bella measures 42" high and 12" wide. Greenhouse horticulturist, Jennifer Alm is inspecting the progress.|
|23 June 2007|
|Bella grew 4” today, so is now measuring 46” tall and continues to “fatten” . The protective bracts surrounding the developing flower are still intact, which tells us the flower has at least a week before opening.|
|25 June 2007|
|Bella grew 6" since Sat. and stands 52" tall. The sheath leaves have begun to fall away as the flower grows to 30" in girth. No smell and no color yet. John Denti, orchid curator, measures Bella.|
|26 June 2007|
|Bella grew to 56 " tall on Tuesday. The last large sheathing leaf has fallen and there is a hint of maroon color inside the cloak. We turned her around as we have been looking at the back side. Note groove on the horn.|
|27 June 2007|
|Bella stands at 57 " - growth slowing. More color and texture forming. No smell. She has been moved a few feet to positing for public viewing. Harwood Gardens manager Teri Edwards sports new "Bella" T-shirts now available.|
|28 June 2007|
|Bella is 59" tall, and growing fatter. She shows more maroon color on the frilly spathe, here with Buffie Stephens, Media Relations Coordinator at UNCCharlotte.|
|June 29, 2007|
|Bella is 60" tall - turning maroon inside the spathe. No smell yet. She was on the web cam all night. Here she is with Sue Richards, head volunteer at UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Looks like Sunday may be big day - or not. Watch this site. watch the web cam.|
|June 30, 2007|
|Bella is 60 inches tall, hasn't changed much. here she is with gardener Connie Byrne. We are told by expert Alan Galloway that she will likely open Sunday night. We also had visit today from Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh where Bella was born in 2001.|
|July 1, 2007|
The day has come -- Bella, the Titan Arum began opening early this morning - around 5 am!
|July 2, 2007|
|Bella's smell has ended (can still get a whiff if you get real close), and her spathe is drawing in, but she is still a sight to see. The withering of the flower is happening more rapidly than we expected. Visit today or early tomorrow, as the flower may be closed up by tomorrow afternoon. Pictured is Suzanne Mellichamp, who was inspired by Bella's coloring to dye her hair.|
|July 3, 2007|
|Bella is behaving like a shrinking violet - the flower has withered rather quickly and will be mostly closed by tomorrow morning. Despite Larry Mellichamp's grimace, the flower no longer stinks. We will continue to allow her to "fade" naturally, until she collapses (perhaps by Friday). Then we will be watching expectantly for a leaf to emerge. The greenhouse will be open to visitors on July 4, from 10 am to 3pm.|
|July 4, 2007|
|Bella's horn collapsed today around 2pm. We are sad to see the flower go, but have enjoyed the excitement this plant has brought to the greenhouse and gardens. Soon, we will remove the collapsed flower, and wait for a leaf bud to emerge from the tuber. The giant leaf should be up and expanded by the beginning of August. If we are lucky, Bella will grace us with another flower in 3-5 years. Thank you for visiting and come back often!|
|July 5, 2007|
|Bye, Bye Bella! "All good things must come to an end" -- and some of them quicker than others. We will most likely cut off the giant faded flower ceremoniously on Friday. As soon as the leaf bud emerges from the tuber we will begin again growing this amazing plant and hope for another flower in 3-5 years. Thank you to all who visited, shared your excitement, and supported us. We hope you will come visit the greenhouse and gardens many times before Bella blooms again!|
Where does the Titan Arum come from?
The Titan Arum grows in the moist, shady jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia.
What a weird-looking flower – is it really the largest flower in the world?
The Titan Arum produces the largest unbranched, inflorescence in the world. The largest of these recorded in cultivation was over 9.5 ft tall! An inflorescence is a structure containing multiple flowers. The Titan Arum bears a special type of inflorescence that looks like one gigantic flower. The tall slender central spike actually bears hundreds of tiny male and female flowers at its base. These little flowers at the base of the spike are hidden by the pleated sheath surrounding it. This sheath will open up at bloom and look like a sort of giant, frilly, maroon petal. Botanists call this sheath and spike type of inflorescence a "spathe and spadix".
Plants that produce these spathe and spadix blooms are in the arum family of plants. A local member of this family is the woodland "Jack-in-the-pulpit" Jack is the spadix and his pulpit is the spathe.
Does it really smell that bad?
Yes, but not for long! The plant produces waves of odor that have been variously described as smelling of rotting animal, dung, and rancid cheese. The Indonesian name for the Titan translates as “corpse flower”. Thankfully, these odors are only produced for 8 to 24 hours – corresponding to the “ripening” of the tiny female flowers, followed by the tiny male flowers at the base of the spike. In the wild, the odor can carry for up to a half-mile attracting specific pollinators. Scientists have observed carrion beetles, carrion flies, and sweat bees visiting the Titan Arum in Sumatra.
How old is your Titan?
Our titan arum, “Bella” is fairly young to be blooming – it is only about 8 years old.
Will it flower again?
We don’t know. It is certainly possible, as other gardens have had individuals bloom again – usually after 3-5 years. In the wild, individuals are estimated to bloom 3-6 times in a 40-yr life span. Plants in cultivation normally don’t live that long.
Where did you get “Bella”, your Titan Arum plant?
We got ours as a small tuber from Tony Avent, of Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh. Tony is a fan of many plants in the same genus as the Titan Arum. Some species of Amorphophallus are actually winter-hardy in the Carolinas - these plants are much smaller than the Titan Arum, but fascinating, and even smelly in their own right. The Titan Arum is extremely sensitive to cold and must never be exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees F.
Why did you name her Bella? … Is it really a “she”?
First off, Bella is actually an “it”, since the “flower” is both male and female. Akin to naming a child, we decided on "Bella" for a couple of reasons. Bella is Latin for beautiful, and we are so proud of this flower that, despite its smell, we can only think of it as wonderfully beautiful. Additionally, the shape of the spathe surrounding the spike is that of an inverted Bell.
Is it rare?
In its natural habitat it has a limited range, but until recently was uncommon (but not rare) within that range. Unfortunately it is now becoming rarer and rarer – due to habitat destruction and illegal collecting of the tubers. A good number of botanical gardens around the world (and even individuals) have specimens, but they require specific growing conditions to thrive, and there is no guarantee they will ever bloom. Being lucky enough to have one bloom in cultivation is the rarity.
Where are the stems and leaves of this plant?
The Titan Arum grows out of a large, underground corm, which is very much like a bulb or tuber. The corm is actually a compressed underground stem that looks like a roundish, flattened potato. The corms of some Titans have weighed in at over 200 lbs!
At different stages during its life the Titan's corm is either dormant underground, or bearing a giant compound leaf or a solitary, giant inflorescence. In other words, the leaf and the flower never exist on the plant at the same time. After the Titan blooms, its amazing “flower” will wither and collapse, but the corm below ground will remain. After a short period a giant leaf will emerge. The leaf is spectacular in its own right. Its stalk is up to 12’ tall (taller in the wild), colored with splotches in shades of green and cream, and appearing somewhat like a giant, lacy umbrella. Although it looks like a weird sort of tree, it is truly just one giant, compound leaf! The leaf can last up to a year, before it turns yellow and dies. Then the plant must go through a period of rest (dormancy) – during this time is exists only as the underground corm.
Where can I find out more about the Titan Arum?
The web is full of information on this fascinating, dramatic plant. Most gardens and universities that have had one bloom have pictures and information. Search for “Titan Arum” or “Amorphophallus titanum”.