If you read our May 11th post called “A Year in the Life of a Titan (still up) you are already familiar with our amazing titan arums. And we’re revisiting them today to share an unexpected, special and rare botanical event: one is sending up a flower spike.
This morning before opening I imagined how a conversation with this amazing plant might go!
The Gardener Guy (GG): I was so excited to see you began sending up a flower last Tuesday!
The Titan Arum (TA): Yeah, I decided that my underground corm had stored enough energy over the last eight years to give it a try.
Our titan arum just days after it flower emerged from the soil.
GG: How big is your corm?
TA: I weighed about 15 pounds last autumn, and that makes me the second-biggest of all the corms here at the Garden.
GG: Wow—that would be huge for a tulip or a gladiolus! But I’ve read about titan corms that even weigh hundreds of pounds. So, what’s up with that?
TA: Yes, we do grow very large. But I am actually still a youngster—maybe like you as a human teenager—and this is my first try at blooming.
Our flowering titan was soon moved to Costa Rica, along with some younger relations still in leaf.
GG: You keep saying “try.” Aren’t you sure about all this?
TA: Sometimes our first flower grows tall but decides not to unfurl. But if I don’t open up, don’t worry because I’ll just go dormant then grow another leaf to store more energy for next time. Because I’m trying my first bloom means that I like it here and will keep trying until I get it right!
GG: Well, I hope you have the steam to give us the whole show this time! Let’s say that happens—how long will you bloom?
TA: I’ll only be open for two nights and days. So, please let your guests know on your CBG Facebook account when I open so they can hurry in to see me!
GG: I will definitely be posting regular updates on Facebook. And you know you are such a botanical event that you are totally worth visiting even today.
Here’s a closer view of the flower. It is still growing tall, and will unfurl only later.
TA: Aw shucks (blush), I guess I am pretty awesome. So, how can people find me?
GG: Hey, stop that, I’m supposed to ask the questions. Anyone can visit you in our Costa Rica Biome and will find you near the ant log and main bridge. It’s really worth seeing titan arums with your own eyes.
This close-up shows the spathe (top) and the folded spadix (bottom). Who’s that in the background?
TA: And while you are here don’t forget my little purple cousin down there next to me, Amorphophallus paeoniifolius– in full bloom right now!
GG: Okay, okay TA, whatever you say.
Our Amorphophallus paeoniifolius in full bloom. That disgusting wrinkled blob on top is the stink organ-phew!
TA: I think I want a name!
GG: You do have a name. Amorphophallus titanium.
TA: That’s a stuffy textbook name. I want a name-name.
GG: How about “Morticia?” You are a corpse flower—a flower that smells like rotting flesh and all that, get it?
TA: I get it, I get it. And since I get it, and I appreciate this time you’ve taken to introduce me to the world…I want to say THANK YOU!
GG: You are most welcome. And you are amazing. Plants are so cool.
*Plants really can talk. Bend in a little closer, open your ears a little more, slooow down to earth speed, and add a dash of imagination—oh, and turn off your phone, that’s the trick.
In his 25 years as a parks and public horticulture specialist, Mark Bir, horticulturist, has had the chance to wear every hat from children’s naturalist to rhododendron horticulturist to glasshouse manager. He has been with the Garden for over a decade and in his current assignment “under glass" Mark grows everything from baobabs to bananas. Stop in the biomes and give him a tip of your chapeau!