University of California, Davis
June 4, 2003
GIANT, SMELLY FLOWER WILL BLOOM SOON
Editor's note: Journalists who wish to be advised when the bloom
opens should contact Sylvia Wright, below.
A rare and unusual plant is about to bloom at the University of
California, Davis, but at six feet tall with a scent of rotting meat,
it likely won't feature in anyone's wedding bouquet.
Amorphophallus titanum, also called titan arum or "corpse flower"
because of its smell, is native to the island of Sumatra in
Indonesia. This particular specimen was grown from seed at the UC
Davis Botanical Conservatory, and conservatory staff have nicknamed
it "Ted the Titan."
Ted is 8 years old and this will be its first bloom. The plant's bud
first poked through the soil around May 15 and now stands just above
3 feet tall. It looks like a small, green-speckled missile with a
When the bloom opens, probably sometime after June 10, it will unfurl
a ribbed, frilly petal-like structure known as a spathe, green on the
outside and reddish-purple on the inside, around the base of a long
conical structure, the spadix, 5 or 6 feet tall. The giant
flower-like structure, which bears many small flowers at its base,
will last for only about a day and a half before collapsing.
Titan arum gives off its scent, which has been compared to rotting
fish, bad eggs or a dead elephant, for about eight hours after the
flower begins to open.
The stink is produced when the plant converts starch stored in the
underground stem into chemical energy, which heats up volatile oils
inside the flower and sends them wafting on surrounding air currents.
The smell attracts flies and carrion-eating insects that pollinate
the plant, said conservatory curator Ernesto Sandoval.
"Flies will go a long way for dead meat," he said.
The plants take up to 10 years to produce a flower and rarely bloom
Amorphophallus spends most of its life as an underground stem called
a corm. Once a year, the plant puts out a single green leaf that
lasts about six months. Eventually, it puts out a flower shoot
instead, hoping to attract flies carrying pollen from another of its
kind. After all that excitement, it goes back to one leaf a year, but
may flower again after a few years' recuperation.
Other recent flowerings of Amorphophallus plants have been "Tiffy" at
California State University, Fullerton; "Mr. Stinky" at the Fairchild
Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, Fla.; and an unnamed plant in Bonn,
Germany. The German flower set a new world record with a height of
nearly 9 feet. The flowers have attracted big crowds of curious, if
somewhat nauseated, visitors.
Ted the Titan will be on display to the public on the UC Davis campus
daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting on June 11 and continuing until
the bloom collapses. Sandoval plans to keep the plant in its current
location at the conservatory unless crowds necessitate that it be
moved to a larger space. Ted's bloom status, location and parking
recommendations will bHie reported online starting on June 10 at
The Botanical Conservatory serves the university and public
communities as an educational facility, research resource and genetic
diversity preserve. It houses over 3,000 plant species in more than
150 families, including examples from most of the world's climatic
* Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704,
* Ernesto Sandoval, Botanical Conservatory, (530) 752-0569,