Leaves
Leaves

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park could be the first zoo in the UK to see a rare titan arum flower.

But the gardener who has nurtured the monster plant for years is likely to miss out.

The titan arum produces one of the largest and smelliest blooms on the planet. The bloom can be three metres in circumference and stinks of rotting meat. If it flowers then it is likely to happen in early August – when Paignton Zoo head gardener Catherine Mortimer will be sailing in the Tall Ships race.

Catherine said: “The whole gardens team is really excited. I am absolutely gutted that I’ll miss it – I’ll just have to make sure we get one to flower next year!”

Final confirmation came just days ago, when the spadix - flower spike - appeared from the tip of the bud. Gardeners have now moved the plant into Paignton Zoo's Crocodile Swamp exhibit so that visitors can see it developing. It is thought that it might flower around 15th August.

When it develops, the flower is green, speckled with cream on the outside and bright red inside. It has ribbed sides and a frilled edge, and can be up to three metres in circumference. Botanic gardens have achieved this feat, but Paignton would be the first zoological garden to get one to flower.

The Zoo’s 9 year old titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium) was re-potted in the Spring, when the tuber weighed 110 pounds or 55 kilos – about the same as a small person. The plant was originally grown by Gillian Pearce, of Paignton, a keen grower of rare tropical plants. She gave it to the previous Curator of Plants, Ian Turner.

Paignton Zoo's current Curator of Plants Kevin Frediani said: "It will probably open for just 48 hours. They attract insect pollinators with the stench of rotting flesh, but we will try to pollinate it by hand as we don't have those insects here. We hope to open in the evening so that people can see it - and smell it!"

The plant - from the rainforests of Sumatra – has one of the largest flowers in the world. Due to its odour of rotting meat the titan arum is known as a carrion flower, and has been dubbed corpse flower or corpse plant. A member of the lily family, it is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Public flowerings are rare. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.
 

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