Thank you for following along with the 2019 corpse flower bloom.
Stay tuned for future updates when our next Amorphophallus titanum decides it’s time!
Legacy of the Amorphophallus
Learn more about the origins of the titan-arum, its long history at NYBG, and the work that went into bringing this flower to fruition.
What is it?
Corpse flower or titan-arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is native to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Its enormous flower spike is the largest unbranched inflorescence (flower structure) in the Plant Kingdom. The fleshy central spike, called a spadix, bears small flowers in rings around its base. The spadix can grow up to 12 feet tall. The spadix is wrapped in a frilly, modified leaf called a spathe. When the plant is ready to bloom, the spathe unfurls, exposing the flowers inside. You may recognize the structure’s resemblance to calla-lily, anthurium, and jack-in-the-pulpit, which are all relatives in the arum family, Araceae. Amorphophallus titanum is often called corpse flower because when it blooms, it emits a powerful stench similar to that of rotting meat. This scent, along with the deep-red, meaty color of the open spathe, attracts insect pollinators that feed on dead animals.
Titan-arums take years to form flower buds, but when they finally do, the flowers mature very quickly. Horticulturists noticed that a three-inch-tall flower bud had formed on Saturday, May 15. In the beginning of the bloom cycle, a titan-arum grows four to six inches each day. By June 19, 2019, the bud was 44 inches tall. Later, growth slows significantly. Two leaves at the base of the spathe shrivel and fall off. The spathe begins to open, revealing the red-purple color inside, and completely unfurls over the course of about 36 hours. During full bloom, the spadix self-heats to approximately human body temperature, which helps disseminate odor particles.
How is it cultivated?
This titan-arum has been nurtured in the warm tropical zone of the Nolen Greenhouses. The hot and humid conditions in the greenhouse mimic the natural conditions of Sumatra. The plant must be watered and fertilized copiously.
Why are we so excited?
Titan-arum blooms are rare and unpredictable. Each plant takes seven years or more to store enough energy to bloom for the first time. This titan-arum is 12 years old.
A Long, Stinky History
NYBG received its first titan-arum from Sumatra in 1932. In May 1937, a flower bud appeared. This was the first titan-arum to flower in the Western Hemisphere, and the Conservatory was mobbed with visitors, reporters, and photographers. After a long wait, the plant finally bloomed on June 8. Its eight-foot spadix was the largest ever grown in cultivation.
A second specimen bloomed at NYBG on July 2, 1939. The Bronx Borough President commemorated the event by designating Amorphophallus titanum the official flower of the Bronx. (It was replaced by the more conventionally attractive daylily in 2006.)
Additional titan-arums reached full bloom here in 2016 and 2018.
Life Cycle of a Titan-Arum
View the lengthy life cycle of the titan-arum, a process that requires years before a single flower can be produced. Courtesy of our friends at the Chicago Botanic Garden.