Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is also known as the Corpse Flower. It’s odor, which is reminiscent of the smell of a decomposing animal, is where the nickname comes from. You could say that it is more smelly than spooky, but I think it has a look quite appropriate for Halloween. The rare plant smells like it does to attract carrion-eating insects, an instrumental part of the its pollination process.
It’s formal name comes from the ancient Greek amorphos, “without form, misshapen” + phallos, “phallus”, and titan, “giant”. It grows in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia and has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. (An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.) The corpse flower only stays open for 2 to 4 days.
Dr. Louis Ricciardiello has been called the Johnny Appleseed of the Indonesian corpse flower. At his greenhouses in New Hampshire, the dental surgeon and amateur botanist has cultivated about 120 corpse flowers. The huge plants only blossom once every 5 to 15 years. These plants are exceptionally hard to find, with only a handful of specimens outside Indonesia. He is generous with his brood, as he has donated a number of them to various zoos and botanical gardens. This past summer a large specimen, aptly named Morticia, attracted thousands of visitors at the Franklin Park Zoo in Massachusetts. Morticia is one of 5 that the good doctor gave to the zoo.
Only 30 corpse flowers have bloomed in captivity. The big plants (Morticia weighs 200 pounds and is 4 feet, 9 inches tall) require careful maintenance in conditions resembling the climate of their Indonesian homeland. The greenhouse at Franklin Park is kept at 82 degrees with a humidity level of 80 to 90 percent.
If I didn’t think it would stink up the joint, I’d build a greenhouse just to see one grow! The doctor said that you get used to the smell and it isn’t that bad anyway, but I don’t know. It could be a trick to get you to take his “treat”.