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a m o r p h o p h a l l u s s t i t a n u m

Amorphophallus titanum 'Rhea'
Titan Arum or Corpse Flower

Blooming: August, 2007

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ECSU is pleased to announce that its Amorphophallus titanum specimen named 'Rhea' has bloomed this summer. The photos on this page have been reduced in file size to make this page more dynammic. Clicking on any photo will open the full-resolution photo in a window that can be resized to enlarge the image. From that image a control-click or right-click will allow you to download the full-resolution file. Thanks to Kevin Gill and Emil Pocock for technical assistance with the Windows workarounds.

The video linked below is thanks to long and intense work on the part of Lisa Curtiss of Media Services, Nick Messina, and staff.

I am also providing a link here to the Complete Analogy I was asked to describe between the blooming of Amorphophallus 'Rhea' and the opening of our new liberal arts core at ECSU. These two events have conincided in time. This version of the analogy includes the third part of the trilogy...literally the "rest of the story."

A brief history of our ECSU specimens and other information can be found below the photographs.

August 20, 2007 1 PM
8/20/07
August 21, 2007 2 PM
8/21/07
August 22, 2007 1 PM
Spadix 103 cm, apex 109 cm above soil
Spadix 27-28° C, Petiole 28° C
8/22/07
August 23, 2007 12 Noon
Spadix 116 cm, apex 122 cm above soil
Spadix 31° C, Petiole 31° C
8/23/07
August 24, 2007 12 Noon
Spadix 130 cm, apex 136 cm above soil
Spadix 34° C, Petiole 34° C
8/24/07
August 25, 2007 12 Noon
Spadix 137 cm, apex 142 cm above soil
Spadix 34° C, Petiole 34° C
8/25/07
August 26, 2007 1 PM
Spadix 148 cm, apex 154 cm above soil
Spadix 31° C, Petiole 31° C
8/26/07
August 27, 2007 1 PM
Spadix 155 cm, apex 161 cm above soil
Spadix 29° C, Petiole 30° C
8/27/07
August 28, 2007 1 PM
Spadix 161 cm, apex 167 cm above soil
Spadix 35° C, Petiole 35° C
8/28/07
August 29, 2007 1 PM
Spadix 167 cm, apex 171 cm above soil
Spadix 34° C, Petiole 34° C
8/29/07
August 30, 2007 1 PM
Spadix 171 cm, apex 173 cm above soil
Spadix 36° C, Petiole 36° C
8/30/07
August 30, 2007 5:30 PM
No fragrance
Spadix 32° C, Petiole 32° C
8/30/07
August 30, 2007 6:30 PM
Weak "sauerkraut" smell
8/30/07
August 30, 2007 7:30 PM
Intense "sauerkraut" smell

August 30, 2007 8:30 PM
Intense "sauerkraut" smell extending
into stairs to parking lot!
Spadix tip: 29° C
Spadix subapical: 33° C
Spadix mid: 26° C
Spadix color-change: 29° C
Spadix base: 26° C
Male flowers: 25° C
Female flowers: 24° C
Petiole 27° C
8/30/07
August 30, 2007 9:30 PM
Intense "sauerkraut" smell extending into stairs to parking lot!
Nauseating inside greenhouse...and needing a shower before bed!
By 10:30 PM fragrance easily noted in the Shafer/Burr breezeway
Spadix: most of its length is 30° C...except base
8/30/07
August 31, 2007 7:00 AM
Intense smell abated considerably at perhaps 10% of maximum!
8/31/07
August 31, 2007 9:00 AM
Fragrance further abated perhaps 5% of maximum!
8/31/07
August 31, 2007 12 Noon
Fragrance further diminished!
8/31/07
August 31, 2007 3 PM
Fragrance very faint...nearly gone
Male flowers still undehisced
8/31/07
September 1, 2007 12 Noon
Fragrance essentially gone
Silicone camera skin has more of it than the inflorescence!
Spadix: 171 cm long, Spadix 26° C., Petiole 31° C.
9/1/07
September 2, 2007 1 PM
Spadix collapsing at tip
Fresh pollen collected and refrigerated for Lehman College
9/2/07
September 3, 2007 1 PM
Spadix collapsing in middle
Accumulated pollen collected for Lehman College
9/3/07
August 30, 2007 8:30 PM
Closer view of base of spadix with flowers below
and surrounded by deep purple and slightly irridescent spathe
8/30/07
August 30, 2007 8:30 PM
Yet closer view of base of spadix with flowers
Male flowers are white and above purple female flowers
8/30/07
September 1, 2007 12 Noon
Male flowers shedding sticky yellow pollen downward over
Purple styles and buff stigmas of female flowers
9/1/07
September 3, 2007 2 PM
Spathe cut away
Fallen pollen collected for Lehman College
9/3/07
September 3, 2007 2 PM
Individual male (above) and female (below) flowers
9/3/07

A brief history of the ECSU Amorphophallus titanum specimens

In 1993 the late Dr. James R. Symon found an Amorphophallus titanum plant in fruit while he was filming episodes for the BBC video, The Private Life of Plants. Upon returning to the US from the plant's native home of Sumatra, he shared seeds from this one plant with conservatories and universities.

In 2001, one of those seeds had produced a plant in bloom at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Harry Luther and the staff collected the pollen from 'Mr. Magnificent' (as this plant was named), and sent it to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There, blooming a few days later, was another plant from the seeds collected by Dr. Symon. 'Big Bucky' was pollinated in June 2001 and produced ripe fruit in October 2001.

Mohammad Fayyaz, the curator at University of Wisconsin, offered seeds from this pollination to the community of greenhouse curators. Ross Koning, who manages the greenhouse at Eastern Connecticut State University, requested a seed. Mo Fayyaz sent a ripe red fruit that arrived on November 2, 2001 and, as luck would have it, it contained two seeds! One seed (named 'Rhea') was planted in a year-round 55% shade greenhouse and the other (named 'Hyperion') was planted in a full sun greenhouse. The soil was Fafard #2 and the seedlings were placed on continuous feed of 20-20-20 fertilizer adjusted to deliver approximately 100 ppm nitrogen. Photoperiods were natural for Connecticut and light was unsupplemented.

Since 2001, the plant in sunny conditions, named 'Hyperion,' has thrown off some smaller corms and its plastochrons have been more rapid and with regular and longer dormant periods, so its cormels have been separated at repotting times. The plant in shaded conditions, named 'Rhea,' has produced consistently larger leaves with longer plastochrons and with very few and very short dormant intervals, making it nearly impossible to have a time to separate any cormels and to easily repot her. The plants were repotted during dormant intervals from small pots to larger ones, but then as leafy plants into 18 gallon recycling bins. When the recycling bin was being deformed by 'Rhea,' the leafy specimen was moved to a 110 gallon horse trough (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage of course!). In Winter 2006-2007 one 'Rhea' corm produced a magnificent leaf that was about 2.5 meters tall with a blade-span of more than 4 meters! When this leaf senesced in spring, it was predicted that August 2007 would perhaps be the first flowering time for 'Rhea.' And so it has.

Naming our ECSU specimens

I have chosen the names for the two genotypes in concert with ECSU's mission as a premier state liberal arts university. The Latin binomial, Amorphophallus titanum, includes the epithet titanum. One of the common names of this species is 'Titan Arum.' In classical Greek mythology, the Titans were the twelve or thirteen children of earth ('Gaia') and sky ('Uranus'). The Titans ruled the earth until they were overthrown by Zeus and the rest of the Olympic pantheon. I decided to use Titan names for our two genotypes based on the conditions under which they have been grown to date.

The choice of Hyperion was obvious as this Titan is associated with light. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, no Titan is associated with shade or darkness. But since our shade-grown genotype was our first to flower and has three more corms ready to flower in a year or so, it has been far more prolific than Hyperion. Rhea was the prolific Titan mother of most of the Olympians, notably including Hades (god of the dark underworld). So the photographs shown on this page are of genotype, Rhea.

Thank you, Nicole Krassas and Rita Malenczyk, for meaningful discussion about the Titans of classical Greek literature.

Thinking about Rhea and her parents

In the list below you will find links to photos of the pollen (Selby) and ovule (UW) parents of Rhea, our ECSU specimen. Almost nothing is known of the inheritance of traits of these plants. As you can see in the early photos of Rhea, its spadix turned quite dark; this purple color appears to be closer to the phenotype shown in the photo of the UW maternal parent than in that of the Selby paternal parent. However, you might notice in the later pictures of Rhea that this purple color is part of what is sacrificed in the spadix to generate heat and volatilize the fragrance chemistry so that it ends up looking more like the photo of the Selby parent. So the parental photos may differ primarily on the basis of time of photography rather than some genetic component.

In a similar way, the color of the spathe in the parental and offspring photos is open to some question. Rhea's spathe is a deep red-purple color with considerable iridescence. Natural light, fluorescent light, and flash photographs alter the appearance of the spathe color considerably. So the differences in the "family photos" may be due more to lighting rather than to some inherited genetic difference.

I wondered whether Rhea would have (like UW) or lack (like Selby) the light picotee edge color on her spathe. This turns out to be rather misleading too. Rhea's spathe at opening time lacked any kind of edging, but the edge of the spathe rolled inward as time passed after peak opening. In the past-peak photos you can see the light-green outer surface was exposed around the edges looking like a picotee edge color, but in fact was just a matter of inrolling senescence! So the Selby photo might be at peak and the UW photo might be past peak, indicating the difference is perhaps more a matter of timing rather than something to do with pigmentation.

Now if you are into critical thinking, you may have observed me arguing two different arrangements of timing in the photos of the two parents. Obviously more study is needed with a lot more detailed information than is available at this time. It is illogical to be argue both ways at the same time (as far as I know now).

If you have been reading this page intently and critically you should also be able to answer these two pedagogic questions, given the choices of names for the two genotypes at ECSU: What would be the proper Greek Titan name for the specimen at the University of Wisconsin? What would be the proper corresponding Greek Titan name for the specimen at Selby Gardens in Florida?

Here is another critical thinking question: What is inappropriate about using either a Titan (god--e.g. Hyperion) or a Titanide (goddess--e.g. Rhea) name for an Amorphophallus titanum plant? Hint: the parenthetical emphasis is important as is observation of the photos shown above on this page.

Pertinent External Links

Here are some links to:
The Wisconsin Progenitor Page
The historic archive of blooming events of Amorphophallus titanum in captivity (ECSU is bloom #121 world-wide, venue #28 in US and #2 in CT)
A photo of the "mother" of ECSU's titan arum in bloom at University of Wisconsin
A photo of the "father" of ECSU's titan arum in bloom at Marie Selby Gardens. Photo courtesy of Harry Luther.
A photo of the fruits...one of which came to ECSU in 2001
A time-lapse movie of our ECSU spathe opening from about mid-day until darkness prevented further filming. Thanks so much to Lisa Curtiss who spent much time setting up the web camera, software, and interfacing issues while working in the sweltering heat of our "tropical rainforest environment."
If that link does not work, Try this one!
A sibling of Rhea blooming at Lehman College, CUNY in September 2007, hopefully pollinated with Rhea's pollen. Photo credit: http://gothamist.com/attachments/jen/2007_09_stinkyflowr.jpg

ECSU CONTACT:
Ross Koning
Professor of Biology
koning@easternct.edu
860-465-5327
Biology Department
Eastern Connecticut State University
Willimantic, CT 06226

 


This page © Ross E. Koning 1994.

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Send comments and bug reports to Ross Koning at koningre∂gmail⋅com.