Big Stinky Flower!
Olbrich's Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum), also known as the Corpse Flower, will only bloom four to five times during its 40-year life. Titan Arum are best known for their unpleasant odor - comparable to rotting meat.
This particular Corpse Flower, affectionately called "Son of Bucky" because it's the offspring of the Big Bucky Corpse Flower at UW-Madison, last bloomed at Olbrich in 2016 & 2010. The flower will only last a few days before it closes.
Photo at right: "Son of Bucky" started opening at about 7 p.m. on Friday, August 28, 2016
What's that smell?
The Titan Arum attracts pollinators with the smell of rotting fish. People associate rotten smells with decay; carrion beetles associate these same odors with a tasty meal. The beetles are drawn to the smelly flower, then pollinate it with the male pollen grains they may be carrying.
All plants must be pollinated to bear fruit. Pollination usually happens when a male pollen grain is brought to the female part of the flower by water, wind, insects, animals, or humans. When this connection happens, a fruit can grow. Titan Arum fruit is reddish-orange, and cherry-sized. Pollen from Olbrich's Titan Arum will be collected and may be sent to other botanic gardens to pollinate their Titan Arum plants.
The Amorphophallus titanum is native to Indonesia and was discovered in 1878 by Odoardo Beccari, an Italian botanist.
Most botanical gardens in the United States owe their Titan Arums to James R. Symon, who collected fruits and brought them to the United States in 1993 for conservation. The Indonesian rain forests of Sumatra are being destroyed by deforestation, leaving the native Titan Arum vulnerable. At Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Titan Arum pollen will be collected and used to pollinate others in greenhouses throughout the United States.
For more information, visit the University of Wisconsin Botany Department's Titan Arum Web page.
Photo at right: "Son of Bucky" is about 6.5 feet tall.