Thursday, July 28, 2011

Something Smelly - Amorphophallus in bloom

Everyone loves flowers, right?

The beauty of the colours! The scent! The visual lift they give to an otherwise sea of greenery in the garden. I include myself in this category too. I love flowers!

Not everyone loves this flower though! If ever there was a group of plants that are 'love them or hate them', then Amorphophallus is it.

Emerging Amorphophallus bulbifer flower spike

Amorphophallus bulbifer almost open

Amorphophallus bulbifer finally opens!
Amorphophallus bulbifer is currently out in flower in my back garden. It would usually be out a bit earlier than this, but I planted the bulb a bit late, not that it seems to mind one little bit.

The colour is pink, in a fleshy kind of way. The 'perfume' is highly scented (if you like old bins full of rotting food waste) and the appearance is, well, repulsive. And yet I still love it! Weird and wonderful, bizarre and yet fascinating at the same time, this flower is typical of the Aroid family, and is what draws me to this group of plants. To call it a flower is of course not strictly correct. The correct terminology is 'spathe', and the flowers are located deep down inside the spathe tube towards the bottom of the spadix.

Some weeks ago, the tightly wrapped spathe had emerged from the soil and had sat there, waiting to open. It seems that the current warm spell has coaxed it out. If the flowers are not fertilised, it will wither and be replaced by a single, striking leaf. On the other hand, if pollination has occured (unlikely, as only one of my bulbs is in flower at the moment) it will produce a cluster of berries that will slowly ripen throughout the summer.

Mottled stem detail of Amorphophallus bulbifer
Although the rather strong odour seemed to be going down a treat with the local population of flies, I resorted to closing the back door to our house, as I had (foolishly?) planted it just outside the door under the dappled shade cast by a pyracantha and yellow flowering escallonia. Thankfully, the smell is short lived and by tomorrow it will be a distant memory... until the next one decides to bloom too!


  1. Years ago I had a Stapelia as a houseplant. I had no idea what it was until it flowered and stank my little flat out. It went. I feel much the same about Amorphophallus. I know they are exotic - especially the leaves - but I can't love this one. I'll commend your bravery in trying it - but it will never find a place in my own garden.

  2. aloha ben,

    we just had one of the giants bloom in our zoo recently and it was spectacular and quite stinky...i love this unusual exotic how exciting for you :)