Amorphophallus titanum 'Hyperion'
Blooming: April 15, 2014
I am pleased to announce that the Amorphophallus titanum specimen named 'Hyperion' has bloomed this spring. The photos below show the flower at 8:30 PM on April 15, 2014.
I am also pleased to announce that my granddaughter, Millicent June Stapler, was born this very same day in the morning. The photo below shows us in the afternoon.
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. As manager of our university greenhouses, I 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 viable 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.
Between 2001 and 2007, the plant in sunny conditions, named 'Hyperion,' threw off some smaller corms and its plastochrons have been more rapid and with regular and longer dormant periods, so its few cormels were separated at repotting times. The plant in shaded conditions, named 'Rhea,' 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!). The assistance of Clayton Pollock in completing this transfer is gratefully acknowledged. 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 was.
The corms from Rhea and Hyperion were moved to the new Science facilities and new greenhouses in 2008. The assitance of Brenton LaTour in accomplishing the move of all the greenhouse specimens at that time is gratefully acknowledged! The various corms of Rhea have flowered periodically in the new greenhouses between 2008 and 2013, including one year in which two flowered within a month of each other!
Now, in 2014, Hyperion has produced its first bloom and it is magnificent and worth the 13 year wait! We have two other clones of Hyperion that we expect will bloom in future years. The individual plant currently in bloom will likely produce one more leaf, take another rest, and then bloom again in about two years. I would look for this corm to produce a flower in Spring of 2016. We shall see how well my prediction holds up.
The plant grows from roots and stem (a corm) in the soil. It sends up just one leaf at a time. Each leaf lives for a few months and then dies. Once the corm has a large-enough leaf, at the end of that leaf's life, the corm is dormant for the usual few months, and then sends up a bloom (technically an inflorescence).
The bloom format is a spathe and spadix (as in Skunk Cabbage, Calla Lily, or Jack-in-The-Pulpit). The spathe is a beautiful color of burgundy with some iridescence on the inside and is light green on the outside. The spadix has several hundred female flowers deep inside the spathe. Just above them are a few thousand male flowers. But the bulk of the spadix is a huge osmophore (scent gland) well over a meter tall! Tonight it is heating up to evaporate the scent chemicals into the air. It is a LOT of scent and it is NOT pleasant to us as the purpose is to attract flesh flies (aka blow flies) from the corpse flower's nearest blooming neighbor. The plant lives on Sumatra (Indonesia) and its nearest blooming neighbor may be a mile or more away, so attracting flies to go from one to the other requires a powerful scent! The pollen is carried by the flies from the male flowers of one bloom to the female flowers of another. The plants are very unlikely to self-pollinate.
I have chosen the names for the two genotypes in concert with my instution'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.
This page © Ross E. Koning 1994.
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