Stinking beauty

Remember the smelly, six-foot tall, Titan Arum that was featured on the front page of the Monitor Aug. 3? The odd-looking flower hadn't completely opened yet, but it had still drawn more than 12,000 spectators. And the tourists just kept coming.

The Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) attracted 76,000 people last week to the Huntington botanical gardens in San Marino, Calif. The behemoth bloom, which was on display for 19 days, was said to be the largest flower (in bulk) in the world. The titan is an inflorescence, or a cluster of flowers. At its peak, it grew about four inches a day. This titan was only the 11th to bloom in the United States this century.

Pollinators are attracted to the plant because of its notably rotten stench. In the tropical rain forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, where the plant was first discovered, pollinators take the form of carrion and dung beetles. At the gardens, staff members hand-pollinated the plant, in hopes of producing seeds for propagation.

But the hulking flower flopped over last Friday, crumpling under its own weight. It folded to one side, looking like a bent banana - a rotten, smelly banana, that is.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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