Illustration: Kandis Elliot
Native to Indonesia’s equatorial rainforests, this plant was first discovered in 1878 in Sumatra, Indonesia. It has the largest un-branched inflorescence in the world. A mature bloom could measure 7-12 feet in height. A mature leaf could be 20’ tall and 15’ wide. There is usually only one leaf at a time; our tuber has put out three leaves this growth cycle. A vegetative period may last 12 to 20 months before the plant withers and goes dormant for 2 to 4 months. Repotting is necessary during dormancy and the new pot should be three times larger than the tuber. Photo on the right is a close up of the trunk-like leaf stem.
The bloom last only 2-3 days. Plant releases waves of odor to attract insect pollinators, which smells like rotting flesh. This “stinking” odor lasts only the first 8 hours the bloom is open. It may bear hundreds of red orange fruits. It belongs to the aroid family that also includes anthuriums, caladiums, callalilies and philodendrons. Some plants have gone from a seed to flowering in 7 years.
Check out the International Aroid Society website for some great photos of this plant in bloom! The Fullerton Arboretum website includes detailed information and life cycle.