The Amorphophallus titanium is endemic to the equatorial rain forest of Indonesia, specifically the Sumatra forest where it grows on limestone soils. Its scientific name means a giant without form. That is, amorphous for formless and titan for giant. This arises from the fact that the plant can grow up to six meters, not to mention its enormous tuber of about 70 kilograms. This is the largest tuber in the plant kingdom. Amorphophallus titanium’s flower opens up to four feet in diameter. The plant is commonly known as titan arum or the corpse plant arising from its obnoxious smell. It also grows artificially in many gardens around the world, especially in the USA and Europe. Below is the scientific classification (taxonomy) of the plant.
Species: Amorphophallus titanium
The plant has a gigantic inflorescence which has a spathe appearing around a spadix. The spadix is a flower bearing structure. The spathe takes the appearance of an upturned bell. It is greenish and cream on the outside and crimson on the inside. The circumference can be up to three meters and has ribbed sides and grilled edges. The flower sprouts at the lower side of the spadix. Here, in a protective chamber above pink female flowers, cream male flowers exist. The inflorescence appears from the tuber, which is the underground food storage of the corpse plant (Chatto 25).
Is Amorphophallus Titanium a Plant or Fungi?
The corpse plant is a plant as it posses xylem and phloem for conduction of water, food, and nutrients (Sedden 13). The plant also reproduces flowers and bears fruits, which encompass sexual reproduction. It is autotrophic in nature and stores its food in the tuber. The above are all characteristics of plants and are opposed to those of fungi. Therefore, the Amorphophallus titanium is a plant and not fungi.
The plant can originate either from a seed or a tuber. Usually, the flower originates from the tuber. The flower that blossoms for just about two days during pollination dies and forms a fruit that bears seeds. The fruit is then exposed to agents of seed dispersal. The most common agents are such avian species as hornbill. The seeds can find favoring conditions and grow into the new plants. The leaf grows on a green stalk separating into many leaflets at its tip. This structure can grow up to six meters tall and about five meters wide. Every year, an old leave dies and a new one takes its place. In order to store enough food/energy, the tuber goes dormant for about four months and then the process repeats.
The Unusual Nature of Amorphophallus Titanium
The Amorphophallus titanium is a rare plant. It takes it years to blossom and when it does, the blossom lasts just about a day or two. It also possesses the largest tuber known to the plant kingdom which weighs about 70 kg. The flowering of the plant is spontaneous and impossible to predict. For instance, Kew gardens in Italy have witnessed more Amorphophallus titanium blossoms in the previous six years than they had witnessed in the last hundred and twenty years (Sedden 33).
The species produce an obnoxious smell which is associated with rotten fish or dung. At the same time, some Amorphophallus produce pleasant fragrances. For example, A. haematospadix smells almost like bananas while A. dunnii produces a smell that is close to that one of fresh carrots (Sedden 23). The temperature of spadix during the pollination stage is usually close to the human body temperature. The inflorescence has a deep red color. This plays an important role since it creates an illusion that the plant is a piece of meat. Red color attracts the insects that help in the pollination of the flowers. The flower is not entirely poisonous, but some parts of the flower, if ingested, can be intoxicating. The plant also exhibits a rapid growth of about four inches per day.
Male and female flowers appear on the same inflorescence, though female flowers open up earlier than the male ones (Mehra 85). This deters the plant from self pollinating. The male flowers appear on top of the female flowers. During pollination, in which carrion-eating beetles are mainly involved, the female flower becomes a bright red fruit of about olive size. The reproductive stage precedes the vegetative stage and then this cycle continues for a lifetime of this plant (Chatto 45). The fruit matures from the pollinated female flower in the spathe chamber. At maturity, the spathe comes off and the fruits become exposed to agents of seed dispersal.
The Sumatra forest of Indonesia is in imminent danger of complete clearance. The forest has faced about 72% deforestation on account of logging for timber or clearing of forests for oil palm production. This directly reduces the population of Amorphophallus titanium, not to mention that the destruction of the habitat affects its pollinators and agents of the seeds dispersal. The growing of Amorphophallus titanium in artificial gardens all over the world however alleviates the threat. Nevertheless, the preservation of Amorphophallus titanium natural habitats is equally important.
The Amorphophallus titanium is an angiosperm that exhibits very peculiar traits. Particularly, it exhibits a spectacular and rare blossom that has always made headlines in various artificial gardens in Europe and the USA. Unfortunately, it is an endangered species of plants. Therefore, plant’s conservation should be taken seriously.