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Person standing next to Titan Arum plantBig Stinky Flower!

Olbrich's Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum) bloomed in October 2009.

This is a rare occurrence as a 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.

Photo at right:  Conservatory staff standing next to Olbrich's blooming Titan Arum plant. The plant is 7 feet, 3 inches tall from the tip of the plant to the top of the soil in the container.



What's that smell?

Titan Arum plantThe 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.

Photo at right: Olbrich's Titan Arum plant.



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.



Titan Arum plant at 3:15 p.m. on October 28

Titan Arum spathe (red part of the flower) was fully open by 3:15 pm, about four hours after it started opening.

Titan Arum measures 4 feet across

The spathe measures about 4 feet across, and the entire plant is 7 feet, three inches tall.

Titan Arum plant at 2:15 p.m. on October 28

Titan Arum plant at 2:15 on October 28.

Check back to watch its progress!

Titan Arum plant at 1:15 p.m. on October 28

Titan Arum plant at 1:15 pm on October 28.

Titan Arum plant at 12:15 p.m. on October 28

Titan Arum plant at 12:15 pm on October 28. 

Titan Arum plant at 11:15 a.m. on October 28

Titan Arum plant at 11:15 am on October 28, just after staff realized the flower was opening.

Titan Arum plant on October 26, seen from the Orchid Aerie

One of the best views of the Titan Arum is from the Orchid Aerie. This photo was taken on October 26.

Titan Arum plant in Olbrich's Bolz Conservatory

The Titan Arum is currently seven feet, three inches tall from the tip of the plant to the top of the soil.

Gnat on Titan Arum plant

Gnats are already attracted to the plant, even though it doesn't have a noticeable smell to humans yet.

Titan Arum on October 22, 2009

The sheath part of the Titan Arum hasn't completely pulled away from the plant yet. The spadix is also getting taller.

Titan Arum on October 19, 2009

The Titan Arum is large, but it could get much bigger! This photo was taken on October 19.

Titan Arum in Olbrich's Greenhouse

When the sheath opened and the ridges of the spathe were revealed, staff was positive that the Titan Arum would bloom.

Titan Arum in Olbrich's Greenhosue

When not in leaf or in bloom, Titan Arum plants reside in Olbrich's greenhouses. At this point, staff wasn't sure if the plant was in the leaf or flower part of its life cycle, as the plants bloom so infrequently.




Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719