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Titan Arum reveals a shoot

A small shoot has appeared on one of the four rare Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum) plants on display in the Tropical Glasshouse at Melbourne Gardens, leaving Nursery staff wondering if a bloom may be on the way.

The shoot appeared on the dormant 34kg tuber (bulb) in late December. The tuber had been monitored daily by Nursery staff (like expectant mothers!) who had kept it warm, humid and out of potting media for three months as it rested on a bed of sphagnum moss. The appearance of the shoot signalled that the tuber was ready to be potted.

When a shoot appears, it signals either a leaf or a bloom. A leaf is most likely to appear as the Titan Arum is known to flower infrequently in the wild and even more rarely in cultivation.

Two of the Gardens’ Titan Arum plants have previously bloomed – the first on Christmas Day, 2012, and the second on 4 January 2013.

Potting the large tuber was a team effort, with Nursery staff first checking for rot before preparing the pot with some broken terracotta tiles (which help with drainage), soil, and fertiliser and then lifting the tuber into its new home.

Nursery Co-ordinator David Robbins is cautiously optimistic about the chances of another bloom.

“We’re checking on the plant each day and keeping it moist within the controlled conditions of the Tropical Glasshouse, which is kept at 23 degrees Celsius,” he explained.

“We should know within 6 – 8 weeks whether we’ve got a leaf or a flower on our hands,” he said.

“This particular tuber flowered in 2012 so it would be quite unusual for it to flower again so soon, but you never know.”

In the meantime, visitors are welcome to stop by the Tropical Glasshouse to see an example of a Titan Arum leaf which is an impressive 3m tall. The Tropical Glasshouse is open daily from 10am – 4pm and 12 – 4pm on Public Holidays.

About the Amorphophallus titanum (Titan Arum)

Amorphophallus titanum grows in the wild in the steep hillsides from 120 to 365m above sea level in the equatorial rainforests of western Sumatra in Indonesia. It is the largest unbranched inflorescence or ‘bunch of flowers’ in the world. When in bloom, the Titan Arum has one of the foulest odours in the plant kingdom, resembling rotting meat and living up to its commonly held name of ‘corpse flower’; it is this foul smell that attracts pollinating insects.

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