Meise’s titan

Today and tomorrow the Botanic Garden in Meise will be open till 21.00 h to let you admire the biggest flower on Earth: the titan arum (its scientific name, amorphophallus titanum, is the result of a fevered mind). Although this time the flower is only going to reach 142 cm (last time’s was 242 cm), everything about this plant is superlative: the bulb can weigh up to 100 kg; a plant may take up to seven years to flower; it has one single leaf which is even bigger than the flower; the blossoming is quite unfrequent and unpredictable, the plant having two possible cycles for the development of its bulb (blossom or leaf).

The tropical rainforest of Sumatra is the natural habitat of the titan arum. As David Attenborough describes in his documentary “The private life of plants” (where the flowering and pollination of this vegetal wonder were filmed for the first time), the flower works like a chimney in the middle of the jungle, attracting pollinators (flies mainly) kms away, with its smell of rotting flesh drifting away over the forest canopy. You will be able to confirm yourself if the smell is so revolting. It did not seem so to me when I witnessed the last blossoming three years ago.

We will probably not have the team of the BBC in Meise to shoot this natural phenomenon but for any plant lover living in Brussels it is much more convenient to get to Meise, only few kms away from Brussels’ city centre, than to reach Kew.

image credits © Ruskin in Brussels