by Carol Stocker
Visitors to Franklin Park Zoo will soon have a rare opportunity to see a titan arum in bloom in what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see this giant of the plant world on full display.
Called the Amorphophallus titanum — better known as a titan arum or corpse flower (due to its production of a very pungent aroma like that of a rotting carcass), these are among the most gigantic of flowers – blooms are potentially 9 feet in height and 6 feet across. The plant at the zoo is expected to bloom within the next week or two although this can not be predicted with absolute certainty.
A greenhouse with humidity and temperature controls has been constructed to accommodate this enormous plant. Once the plant is in bloom, visitors will be able to walk through this space located near Serengeti Crossing.
Titan arums are very sensitive plants and conditions must be just right for them to bloom. These plants are noted for rapid growth particularly as they near bloom, which can be 4 to 5 inches a day.
“We are incredibly excited about these most unusual examples of nature and we hope that people will take advantage of this rare opportunity to see this jaw-dropping plant on display. The blooms are truly spectacular, as is the aroma” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO.
Originating from Sumatra, the corpse flower has demanding environmental requirements. This rarely observed blooming phenomenon often goes many years between blooms which last for only 24-48 hours. In the wild, these plants are scattered and the pungent smell can attract pollinators from quite a distance away.
At this stage, it is difficult to predict exactly when the plant will bloom. But if you are interested, you can follow the plant’s development through the Zoos’ twitter account (@zoonewengland) in order to stay abreast of this dynamic process and not miss the short bloom period.
Due to the fact that prime blooming in these plants takes place at night, there will be special off-hours viewing periods established. Early morning viewings from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. and evening viewings from 6:00-8:00 p.m. will be free to the public. The animals will not be on exhibit at this time and visitors can only enter via the Zebra entrance.
The plant will also be on public display throughout regular Zoo hours and regular Zoo admission must be paid during normal business hours. You can regularly check the Website at franklinparkzoo.org, Facebook at www.facebook.com/franklinparkzoo and follow it on Twitter (@zoonewengland) for details on growth and anticipated viewing times.
The titan arum was generously donated to the zoo by Dr. Louis Ricciardiello, an oral surgeon in Laconia, New Hampshire, who has been growing and cultivating these plants for many years.