Amorphophallus titanum, commonly called Titan Arum, or Corpse plant is a tropical plant native to Indonesia. It’s a member of the Araceae or Arum family. The members of this family have an unusual inflorescence known as a spathe and spadix. The spadix portion is a spike consisting of many fleshy, small unisexual flowers. This spike is subtended, or surrounded by a spathe portion or leaf-like bract. The Titan Arum inflorescence is the largest inflorescence in the world. Its unisexual flowers are pollinated by carrion-visiting insects (usually flies or beetles) that are attracted to the strong, very disagreeable scent of the inflorescence. Heat is actually produced by the spadix as well. This heat aids in diffusing the unpleasant smell of the inflorescence.
Here’s the cool part – People will stand in long lines in order to photograph this plant and to take a whiff of this inflorescence. When these plants finally bloom after 7 to 10 years, usually at a Botanical Garden, or university greenhouse, the press is alerted and the Titan Arum plant becomes a ‘stinky’ star. We are about one to two years away from having our very own Titan Arum bloom in all of its stinky glory.
In 2011, we received several Titan Arum corms (bulb-like, solid vertical underground stem) from New York Botanical Garden. We gave a few to the Missouri Botanical Garden, but we kept one for the Tucker greenhouse. It is now at least 7 to 8 years old. It has quadrupled in size and weighs over 20 lbs. Every year since 2011, I have dutifully transplanted this growing corm to a larger pot. The leaves on the plant die back like those of most bulbs/corms, then the corm goes into a rest period underground. It stores up energy to send up a new set of leaves for the next year. When this plant is old enough, instead of sending up leaves, it will send up its very beautiful, yet stinky inflorescence.
The photo below is the corm after I lifted it out of its old pot on July 5th, 2017 It measured 30 cm or 12 inches.
The photo below is from the late summer, early fall of 2016. It is ‘Stinker’ and her new leaves just emerging from a long rest.
The photo below is late fall 2016. Stinker is clearly growing very large leaves.
This plant continued to grow and get taller as winter progressed. At one point, in Feb or early March, its leaves started to slowly senesce, or die back. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought that the plant was dying. It was instead just going through its natural life cycle. This plant loves 70-85 F temperatures, and lots of humidity surrounding its leaves.
It’s important to stop watering the plant when the leaves begin to die back so as not to cause the corm to rot. Once the leaves are completely brown and dry, the dead leaves can be removed and the corm should be allowed to rest for several months.
Just today, I lifted the large corm out of its small pot and gently placed it in a newer, much larger pot. Hopefully, this is the very pot from which Stinker will finally bloom.
The current home of ‘Stinker’ is pictured below. Now we wait.
For fun, watch this video
I just placed the seeds in water and plan to let them soak for a week or more. Next step is to cure the seeds in a dry hot place, then roast them, then grind them to make pure cocoa powder…..stay tuned!
Today I had to put a note of caution on the greenhouse door, warning people about the baby Cardinal birds roaming around on the greenhouse floor. Each year a Cardinal pair raises a clutch of anywhere from 1-4 babies in the greenhouse. They often come back to the same nest each year too. Just today, the babies awkwardly flew out of their nest, and they’re simply driving their poor parents crazy. The parents are noticeably anxious. The babies can sort of fly up about a foot into the air, but then they land very awkwardly. Their wing feathers are still growing, and their color is dark gray so they’re had to see. They chirp constantly though, so you may not see them right away, but you can really hear them. The parents can fly in and out of the greenhouse through the open vents, and because of this they have been bringing the babies food all day from the outside
This fragrant plant can grow in very dry soil in full sun, making it a great rock garden plant. Its common name is rose verbena and you can find it blooming right now along road sides, rocky bluffs, prairies, glades and sunny hillsides all over Missouri. Its sprawling low-growing habit lends itself to being used as a ground cover in rock gardens. It does spread and will take over an area (not quite like mint though). The flower color is simly stunning. From rose to purple shades.
Check out the Tucker greenhouse rock garden located on the north side of the Tucker greenhouse.
Dirca palustris, commonly called Leatherwood or Eastern Leatherwood, is found in the Thymelaeaceae family. This sweet little native Missouri deciduous shrub is blooming right now right outside of the Tucker greenhouse. It typically blooms from March to April, but the flowers are so tiny, one could easily miss them blooming in the woods. The flowers are pale yellow and about a centimeter long. This sweet little shrub prefers to grow in part shade to full shade. It blooms before the leaves emerge. After the flowers are pollinated, they produce a green drupe fruit (fleshy fruit with one seed).
The genus name comes from the Greek word for fountain. The species name means ‘marsh-loving’. This plant does prefer a moist habitat near streams, or rich bottomland.