(Not so) sweet smell of success
Published: 6th Jul 2017Paignton Zoo was the first zoo in the UK to have a Titan arum bloom - now the gardeners are at it again...
Paignton Zoo is hoping that not one but two huge smelly flowers will bloom this summer.
Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) flowers can be up to 3 metres high and 3 metres in circumference and smell like rotting meat. In 2012, Paignton Zoo was the first zoological collection in the UK to have a Titan arum bloom. The gardens team succeeded again in 2015 - but 2017 could be their best year ever for these smelly giants.
Giles Palmer, Curator of Plants and Gardens at Paignton Zoo, said: “There are only about 100 collections anywhere in the world where you can see this plant, mostly botanical gardens. Our plants are in Crocodile Swamp opposite the saltwater crocodile. The last time I measured it, the first one was 150cm tall and growing an impressive 12cm per day.”
Predicting when the inflorescence will open fully is notoriously tricky, but the gardeners estimate sometime in the next few days.
Giles: “The tuber for this Titan weighed only 27kgs when we re-potted it in November, 17kg less than the titan that flowered in 2015, so the flower bud took us by surprise. That’s why we’ve nicknamed this one Tiny Tim! The early flowering can only be down to the care, attention and the dedication of the Paignton Zoo garden team.” The second Titan is three or four weeks behind and weighed an impressive 56kgs when re-potted in March. This one could be the conservation charity’s biggest to date.
Giles Palmer, Curator of Plants and Gardens at Paignton Zoo, said: “It is great for us to be able to talk about horticulture at Paignton Zoo. We are a combined zoological and botanical garden, the plants are as important as the animals. This has been a really good opportunity to remind people of that. The whole gardens team has worked hard on this and should be very proud of the results.”
It is said that the name Titan arum was devised by David Attenborough because the Latin name was thought to sound too rude for television. The plant - from the rainforests of Sumatra and a member of the Arum family - is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. It has one of the largest flowers in the world; the bloom – correctly, an inflorescence – is green on the outside and bright red inside, with ribbed sides and a frilled edge. Due to its odour – said to be like rotting meat – it’s known as a carrion flower, and has been dubbed corpse flower or corpse plant. It emits the strong smell at night to attract pollinators.