The Journal of Botanic Garden Horticulture, No 5
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AM ORP HOPH A LL US
TITANUM ) – A FLAGSHIP SPECIES FOR BOTANIC GARDENS
Wolfram Lobin1, Michael Neumann2, Markus Radscheit3 & Wilhelm Barthlott4
One of the most exciting plant species is the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, which can truly
be regarded as a agship species for botanic gardens. Wild populations suffer from an increasing
pressure on their natural habitat, but botanic gardens can play an important role in the ex-situ
conservation of the species. The cultivation of A. titanum is not easy but it offers an irresistible
challenge for any keen horticulturist. The University of Bonn Botanic Gardens (Germany) has
more than seventy years of experience in the cultivation of this giant and the purpose of this paper
is to help the botanic garden community to achieve success in the cultivation of this fascinating
IN TRODUCT ION
The Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is one of the most prominent plants in the
plant kingdom. It was discovered in Sumatra (Indonesia) in 1878 by Odoardo Beccari
who sent seeds to the botanic gardens in Florence and Kew. It took 11 years before
the rst plant owered in 1889 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. For the next 100
years owering events of Titan Arum in botanic gardens were extremely rare; only
21 owerings were recorded worldwide until 1989 − three of them in Bonn (1937,
1940, 1987). In 1998 Barthlott & Lobin published a comprehensive monograph on
Gandawija et al. (1983) provide an overview on various owering events of A.
titanum. According to Fayyaz (2006, internet presentation) there are approximately 100
plants that produce owers in cultivation worldwide. Field observations are published by
Giardano (1999), Hetterscheid (1994) and Symon (1994).
Since 1990 approximately 80 A. titanum plants have bloomed in botanic gardens
− six of them in Bonn (two in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006). It is not only the
architectural structure but also its gigantic blooms with mal odour that are a magnet
for thousands of visitors when it is in ower. It is worth noting that scientists from
1Wolfram Lobin is Curator of the University of Bonn Botanical Gardens
Address: Botanische Gärten der Universität Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 171, D-53115 Bonn
2Michael Neumann is a horticulturist at the University of Bonn Botanic Gardens and is responsible for Amorphophallus
Address: as above
3Markus Radscheit is a technical leader at the University of Bonn Botanical Gardens
Address: as above
4Wilhelm Barthlott is Director of the University of Bonn Botanic Gardens and of the Nees-Institute for Biodiversity of Plants
Address: as above
70 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
the eld of bionics are becoming increasingly interested in the structure of the
The University of Bonn Botanic Gardens can reect on a long tradition in the culti-
vation of this species. The rst Titan Arum bloomed in 1937, followed by eight further
occasions, the last in 2006 (see Table 1).
Date Weight (kg) Height (m)
Measured from soil surface
21 April 1937 22.5 1.81
July 1940 / /
8 April 1987 21,5 1.61
8 May 1996 32 2.33
30 May 1996 50 1.69
30 April 1998 27 1.72
7 July 2000 36 2.575
22 May 2003 78 2.74
13 and 16 May 2006 117 2.595; 2.22; 1.665
Table 1: Flowering of Amorphophallus titanum in the University of Bonn Botanic
Naturally over such a long period of time a considerable amount of horticultural
observations and data have been accumulated and a general overview was published
by Hetterscheid et al. (1998). The former horticulturist in charge at Bonn, M. Koenen
(retired), and now M. Neumann have gained considerable practical experience in culti-
vating A. titanium and this now deserves to be shared with the wider botanic garden
Anatomical research in plant structure is one of the major activities at the afliated
Nees Institute. The structure of the 1987 inorescence was examined thoroughly by
scientists from different elds and the results were published by Barthlott & Lobin
(1998). In this publication a general review of available literature covering the species
can be found. The revision of the African species of Amorphophallus was carried out in
the Nees Institute also, using plant material from the gardens (Ittenbach, 2003). Finally,
Hejnowicz & Barthlott (2005) reported on A. titanum as an ultra light construction.
One of the specimens currently held at Bonn not only produced the tallest ower
in 2003, but it also owered in three consecutive years, in 2000, 2003 and 2006. This is
unusual, since most Titan Arums do not survive the stress of owering in cultivation and
die soon after their rst owering. The most outstanding owering event was the one in
2003 when the plant developed an inorescence of 3.06m measured from tuber surface
and it entered the Guinness Book of World Records. The same plant also produced
the biggest ever recorded tuber of 117kg. In May 2006 this produced three individual
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 71
blooms at the same time, opening within one week (Fig. 10). Multiple blooms of Titan
Arum had not been observed before this time.
MORPHOLOGY, HABITAT AND LIF E STRATEGY
Titan Arum occurs throughout the Barisan mountain Range in West Sumatra, Indonesia.
Its main distribution centre covers approximately 300 x 100km on the western slopes
in secondary rainforests from sea level 1200m. It prefers humid soils and open places
where it grows in groups of individuals at all stages of development (Hetterscheid,
1998). In the description that follows, the life cycle of Titan Arum is described in order
to provide a better understanding of its growth characteristics (Fig. 4).
The plants grow at intervals interrupted by periods of dormancy. It produces either
one gigantic leaf or, having reached critical tuber size (see below), inorescences. The
tuber produces only one leaf at a time. This can reach an impressive size and resembles
a small tree. The petiole of a mature plant may grow up to three meters in height. White
circular marks on the petiole resemble lichens, and this phenomenon of mimicry is
described in detail in Barthlott (1995).
The lamina is at least 3 times dissected and the one on a recent leaf of a mature Titan
Arum at Bonn was 5.2m in diameter. It covers an area of 22m and a leaf may last for 9
to 24 months. Young plants keep their leaves for only for 6 months.
The tuber is capable of doubling its weight during the vegetative period. When it
has reached approximately 15kg it is mature and can produce either a leaf or an inores-
cence after dormancy. Table 2 presents an overview of weight increase of an A. titanum
tuber. The Titan Arum that bloomed in 2000, 2003 and 2006 more than doubled its
tuber weight between 2000 and 2003 from 36kg to 78kg. Within 12 months, from 2003
to 2005 the tuber grew from 78kg to 117kg. – a net weight increase of 39kg within one
and a half years. After the triple bloom in May 2006 the tuber went into dormancy with
a weight of 94kg and so, during the triple bloom, the tuber lost some 23kg.
Weight (kg) Diameter
Estimated age in
Various A. titanum
5 230 150 7
32 490 / 9 1996
50 490 380 imported 1996
Same plant of titan arum
36 490 230 11 2000
78 650 340 14 2003
117 830 370 16 2006
94 800 370 17 2007
Table 2. Dimensions of tubers of Amorphophallus titanum
72 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
The inorescence has gigantic dimensions. It consists of a spathe which forms a tube
at its base where tiny female owers are arranged below the small male owers. The
spathe opens during the afternoon and during the rst night the female owers bloom.
A strong smell of carrion is released at short intervals but only for a short period of time
during the rst night, when the plant is in its female stage. Towards the end of the rst
night the spathe may close a little or more. During the second night, the male owers
bloom producing masses of yellow pollen. On the second day the inorescence closes
completely and may stay upright for about another day. Then the spadix collapses. In
cultivation the owers are normally not pollinated unless articial pollination is carried
out (see below). Any unpollinated inorescences will wither in the following weeks.
After pollination the Titan Arum will develop an infrutescence with orange red berries.
The cultivation of the Titan Arum in botanic gardens is very specic. It requires a
conservatory with a roof height of at least 5 meters and it needs to maintain a high
temperature and humid conditions (see below). The cultivation of Titan Arum is
therefore not particularly suitable for the beginner, amateur or botanic gardens with
minimal glasshouse facilities.
Containers and Potting
The size of the container should be 2.5 times larger than the diameter of the tuber. For
example, if the tuber is 100mm in diameter the pot provided should be 250mm across.
The best containers for Titan Arums are made of plastic and they should be wider than
they are deep. Bearing in mind that the tuber of a mature plant may weigh up to 75kg
or more, a container of approximately 1.4m diameter will be required. Tuber, container,
compost and water add up to a weight of more than one ton and, therefore, once potted
the container can only be moved with extreme difculty so it has to be placed in the
location where it might eventually ower.
During dormancy the tuber should not be taken out of the pot and it must be stored
in a warm place. The best time for potting is towards the end of dormancy when the
central bud starts to swell. The roots should not be in growth or only very slightly and
should not be damaged by repotting the tuber.
When large tubers are taken out of the soil they should not be allowed to lie directly
on a hard surface because their own weight may cause damage to the lower part of the
tuber (Fig. 5). In order to avoid any damage it is best to place the tuber on a 200mm layer
of compost that will later be used for potting. A normal container is placed upside down
above the tuber to avoid desiccation and keep it away from light. If roots have already
developed at this stage, a wet tissue should be placed above the bud and the roots. The
duration of storage should be as short as possible as in its natural habitat the tuber never
dries out completely. Small tubers will die within 10 days if kept dry outside the compost.
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 73
The compost has to be changed completely. It is important to plant the tuber fairly deep
because approximately 90% of the roots develop on the upper surface of the tuber next to
the central bud and the remaining 10% develops around the rest of the tuber. The width
between the tuber and rim of the container should therefore be wide enough so that the
roots can reach the compost beneath. The size of young and old tubers vary greatly;
larger tubers (more than 10kg) should have at least 200mm of soil on their upper surface,
medium sized ca. 100mm, and small ones 30 to 40mm.
The key for successful cultivation of the Titan Arum is plant hygiene. Therefore, all
compost needs to be free of pathogens and thus should be steamed before use. The
recommended compost is a mixture of 75% Einheitserde ED73 (Balter) and 25%
washed sand. Einheitserde ED73 (Balter) consists of 70% peat, 30% claydust, pH 5.8,
fertilizer (N:P:K ratio 14-16-18) and slow-release fertilizer (N:P:K ratio 20-10-15). At
the bottom of each container a layer of gravel should be placed for drainage – lava,
pumice or limestone are suitable materials. This drainage should cover about 10% of
the depth of the pot.
Titan Arum requires regular watering and it has to be cultivated under very humid condi-
tions, which can generally only be reached in appropriate conservatories.
Directly after the tuber has been potted, it has to be watered thoroughly to ensure
that the compost is completely wet. With larger tubers of 500mm diameter or more,
watering has to be carried out very carefully, because larger tubers prevent the soil
beneath them from becoming wet. The compost should never dry out after potting and
at the start of leaf development, in particular, the young plants are sensitive to drying
out. Plants will die if not watered well and experience has shown that it is better to
water more rather than keeping the plant too dry. Good drainage as described above is
absolutely necessary for successful cultivation. Clogged drainage or ‘wet feet’ will kill
the plant in due course.
Once the Titan Arum starts to bloom and the spathe opens it is necessary to water
the container carefully on that day and only then will the inorescence open completely.
Personal observation has shown that the supply of ample amounts of water at this period
are essential for the complete opening of the spathe. In the 1998 bloom the container
seemed to be wet enough and was not watered while the spathe opened, but then the
inorescence did not open completely.
Critical attention also has to be given to air humidity. A. titanum suffers particularly
in summer and if air humidity falls under a critical level the leaf edges start to drop down.
Experience has shown that air humidity should be 80–90%. Air humidity is especially
important during antheses, because the spathe will wither faster, if air moisture is too
74 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
low. It should be as high as possible, with a minimum of 80%. This may be difcult to
maintain, when visitors queue to see the plant and when there is regular opening and
closing of access doors.
Titan Arum requires high levels of fertilizer to be applied on a regular basis. Liquid
fertilizer should be applied every fortnight starting immediately after potting with 0.3%
of 8% N, 8% K, 6% P. In winter (December to March) fertilizer application is reduced
to 0.2% every 3 weeks. No more fertilizer is applied once the leaves start to wither.
In contrast to general horticultural practice during the development of the inores-
cence fertilizer is applied in the quantities described above. Just before the spathe opens
the application of fertilizer should cease.
Titan Arum requires high temperatures at stable levels similar to its natural habitat. They
should be 28°C during the day and 26°C during the night. The minimum temperature
should not be lower than 25°C, and the maximum temperature not higher than 32°C. The
plants may survive lower or higher temperatures for short periods, but will be signi-
cantly damaged for that vegetative phase.
Titan Arum requires ample amounts of light. Shade should only be given during the
hottest time in the year around noon. The Titan Arum at Bonn is not supplied with
Pests and diseases
Hygiene is most important for successful cultivation of the Titan Arum, because the
tuber is easily infected. The most serious problem is caused by nematodes (mostly
Meloidogyne incognita) that are present in warm conservatories in the majority of
botanical gardens. In most cases they are the cause for the short life span of the Titan
Arum in botanic garden cultivation.
Very often nematode infected tubers develop tubercles around the tuber surface.
These areas consist of soft tissue and are not associated with accessory buds. In due
course they will start to rot and leave crater-like scars which then serve as entrance ports
for secondary infections. Unfortunately, It is nearly impossible to kill any infections
because nematodes live in the intercellular spaces. The best way to prevent infections
is by only using sterile compost, drainage material and pots. Experience has shown that
tuber rotting only occurs if the drainage is insufcient or nematodes are present.
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 75
It is good horticultural practice to keep Amorphophallus pots well away from direct
contact to the ground by placing them on bricks or pots turned upside down. This means
that nematodes cannot enter the pots.
Sometimes mealy bugs that feed on the tuber appear during dormancy. However,
this is not a serious problem because they disappear once the plant is in growth.
The leaves are usually not affected by any pests or diseases. Aphids may occur if
plants are not healthy but they are easily controlled with Neudosan™ which contains
Potassium salts with fatty acids, or by general biological pest control.
PROPAGAT I ON
A. titanum is under threat in its natural habitat and extensive collection puts the species
under serious pressure. As part of any conservation activities it is important to understand
the propagation protocol of the species. It should not be imported into botanic gardens
from the wild, and botanic gardens should share only self propagated plant material.
Propagation by seed
There are eight records of cultivated Titan Arums producing seeds (see Table 3). Up until
the present time all plants in cultivation have died after setting fruit but it is unknown
whether plants survive fruiting in nature.
Palmengarten, Frankfurt 1992
University Botanic Gardens, Bonn 1996
Huntington Botanical Garden, California 1999
Palmengarten, Frankfurt 2000
Fairchild Tropical Garden, Florida 2003
Botanic Garden University of California, Davis 2004
Botanic Garden University of Washington, Seattle 2004
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2005
Table 3 Records of infrutescence of Amorphophallus titanum
In cultivation A. titanum sets seed only after articial and successful pollination and
fertilization. The plants are proterogyn, meaning that pollen only becomes ripe when
the female phase of owering has nished and according to the literature at least, self-
pollination is not possible.
Pollen of another plant has usually been used for articial pollination. Pollen should
be stored because it is unlikely that any garden would have two plants owering at the
same time. It can be stored deep-frozen in liquid nitrogen or kept cool in a refrigerator
at 5°C, the latter for up to six weeks. Both methods of storage are equally effective.
76 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
Stored pollen from Bonn and freshly harvested pollen from Palmengarten in
Frankfurt were used for articial pollination in Bonn in 1996. The bloom was divided
into 4 sections and every sector was pollinated with differently stored pollen. The
result showed that there was no difference in the number of fruits, the contents of
seeds in each fruit or in the germination rate between the treatments. It seems that A.
titanum is rather unspecic in its fertilization requirements and even the application of
unripe pollen will result in successful fertilization. This has been shown at Huntington
Botanic Garden on one occasion in 2000. Self-pollination using unripe pollen took
place (BBC, 2000 internet presentation) and resulted in an infrutescence with viable
After successful pollination the peduncle begins to elongate and the ovaries start to
swell. It reaches up to 1.5m with the infrutescence measuring about 500mm. Spathe and
appendix then wither leaving scars. The ca. 500 orange red berries ripen simultaneously
and they are 40mm long, 25mm in diameter and weigh 5 to 15kg (Fig. 7). Each berry
contains 1 to 3 seeds, with 2 seeds being most frequent (66%).
In Bonn fruits were harvested in December 1996 and in January 1997 following
articial pollination in May 1996. Fruits were ripe 7–8 months after pollination.
Seeds were rst cleaned of the fruit pulp and then sown straight away. Some were
sown in the same compost as for potting and some were placed on sand. However, there
was no difference in germination behaviour between the different treatments. Most were
covered with 10mm of compost but some with less. It is important to note this because
most of the seeds that were not fully covered with soil rotted away. Soil temperature
was 26°C and air temperature 29°C. It should be especially noted that it is important to
remove the pulp because it contains germination inhibitors. The best practice is to sow
the seeds as soon as possible after harvest. They should not be stored because they dry
out very quickly.
Practical experience has shown that the length of germination varies greatly. The
rst seeds germinated after 30 days, the last seeds after 157 days. The germination rate
was 82% out of 361 seeds sown. Cultivation requirements of seedlings are very similar
to those of adult plants. After germination the young plants produce one single leaf
followed by the other (Fig. 6), interrupted by periods of dormancy. The duration of this
period of dormancy is irregular. Seedlings may develop a new leaf while the old one is
still present. The tuber of older plants can rest for 2 to 15 months. Size and shape of
the rst leaf depends on the quality of the seed itself. The rst leaf can be divided into
3 or 5 segments. The subsequent growth rate of seedlings does not follow a uniform
pattern. Some grow very slowly, others much faster. The rst of the Bonn seedlings
owered after 8 years on 16 July 2005 in the Botanic Garden of Marburg University.
Other botanic gardens report that their plants took 10 to 12 years to reach owering
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 77
Tissue culture is a sophisticated but possible method of propagating the Titan Arum.
Professor Hans Kohlenbach from the University of Frankfurt successfully attempted in
vitro propagation by tissue culture in 1985 and 1986 (Kohlenbach, 1998). Two of the
Bonn specimens were obtained from this source.
Another method of propagation is to take leaf cuttings, as described by Upton (1998).
Experience has shown, that the leaf should be completely developed but not older than
4 months. Cuttings should be taken from the petiole above the triple division. Each
branching further on is usable for cuttings and it is the Y-shaped leaf veins that are used.
The propagation material ought to be 250 to 300mm long. All excess leaf blade material
should be cut off leaving only just a few parts. The proximal part should be dipped in
general rooting powder and then the propagule can be placed in a propagation compost
such as a mixture of 50% peat and 50% washed sand.
Pots should be placed in a humid atmosphere with bottom heat (26°C). The light
quantity and quality should be the same as for adult plants. Within 3 months tuber tissue
should have developed at the proximal end of the cuttings. It then takes a further 6
months until the rst leaves are visible. After this time the cuttings are completely rotten
and only the tuber tissue is left. In Bonn 5 out of 10 cuttings taken failed to root. Most
of the thinner cuttings (20mm) survived; all of the thicker (60 to 70mm) cuttings died.
The rst leaves were small and it took a signicant time to grow them on. After 7 years
one vegetatively produced specimen produced a leaf of only 1.2m.
During eld observations in South East Asia one of the authors (MN) discovered
that other species of Amorphophallus seemed to have the ability to self-generate by some
form of leaf cutting. Along a footpath in Thailand vegetation had been hand cleared.
Among the cut plants, leaf debris of two species of Amorphophallus was discovered.
Examination of this material showed that tuber tissue developed at the proximal base of
the petiole. One of the two species was identied as A. paeonifolius, the other could not
be identied. This observation indicates the likelihood of other species also being able
to self-generate by the formation of callus tissue around their petiole.
Other Amorphophallus species have the natural ability to self-regenerate from bulbils
which develop on the leaf near the Y-shaped branchings along the veins in the centre of the
leaves (as in A. bulbifer and A. oncophyllus). In other species rhizome-like offsets develop
from the tuber. These may separate to form new plants in species such as A. konjac and A.
krausei. There are no indications that the Titan Arum self-propagates in this way.
78 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
Differential diagnostics of a ower bud and leaf bud
Once the tuber of Titan Arum has developed a new bud it is exciting to predict whether
it will be a leaf or an inorescence. There is a signicant difference between a ower
bud and a leaf bud. The leaf bud is arrow shaped, perfectly round in diameter and the
tip of the cataphyll is exactly in the centre (Fig. 8). A bud from an inorescence is bell
shaped, irregularly rounded and the tip of the cataphyll is clearly placed more laterally,
making it look as if the bud is ‘pregnant’ (Fig. 9). For an experienced gardener this
difference is recognizable even in the very early stages when the bud is about 60mm
in diameter but it becomes more obvious when the bud extends by more than 100mm
above the soil level.
Growth pattern of the owering bud
The daily growth pattern of the various blooms at Bonn have been accurately recorded.
The daily height increase of the 2006 inorescence is shown in Figure 1. The columns
show a rather slow but steady growth increase. However, a signicant increase can be
seen after the third week until approximately 5 days before the spathe opens.
Fig. 1 From bud to ower – daily height of inorescence of Amorphophallus titanum in millimetres above
ground from April to May, 2006.
The daily growth pattern of inorescences are characterised by a slow increase in
the beginning. Afterwards it changes into a rapid growing phase and in the last days
before opening the growth rate slows down signicantly (Fig. 2).
It is possible to predict the opening date of the bloom by analysing the growth
statistics. The daily growth rate is even and there is no difference between day and night
growths (Fig. 3), therefore the temperatures should be maintained at a constant level
throughout the day and night.
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 79
When does the bloom really open?
There are several key considerations to consider when it comes to predicting the day
when the bloom opens. It is helpful to know roughly the opening day, because numerous
Fig. 2 Daily growth rate of inorescence of Amorphophallus titanum in millimetres from April to May,
Fig. 3 Distribution of the growth rate of the inorescence of Amorphophallus titanum during 24 hours on 4
and 5 May 2006
80 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
preparations need to be made before the owering spectacle starts (see below). One of
the most important tasks is to calculate the duration from the rst visible bud until the
opening of the bloom. It is difcult to predict the exact moment when the spathe opens
but there are some hints which may help to ease the forecast. The following observations
are based on experience from several blooming events at Bonn but are described most
specically from the 2006 event.
Table 4 presents the time span of various titan arums from rst bud until bloom. The
time varies from 25–46 days and, naturally, the taller the inorescence the longer it takes
to develop the bloom. Experience has also shown that there is hardly any difference in
the development time between an inorescence and a leaf.
Bud visible Spathe opening Days
Measured from soil
22.3.1996 08.5.1996 46 2.33
02.5.1996 30.5.1996 28 1.67
01.4.1998 30.4.1998 29 1.72
30.5.2000 06.7.2000 37 2.57
14.4.2003 22.5.2003 38 2.74
09.4.2006 13.5.2006 34 2.59
15.4.2006 13.5.2006 28 2.22
22.4.2006 16.5.2006 24 1.66
Table 4. Time needed for the inorescence to develop from a bud
Once the daily growth rate (see above) exceeds 100mm within 24 hours the rapid
growing period starts. This happened in Bonn in 2006, 13 days before the spathe opened
and lasted for approximately 10 days. After this period of rapid growth, the daily increase
slows down rapidly within 4 days to a few centimetres in 24 hours. This is the rst secure
indication that the opening of the spathe will follow within the next few days.
On the afternoon before the spathe opens, and especially on the morning of that day,
a secretion pours out of the closed bud where the spathe overlaps and runs down the
peduncle. Sometimes this is accompanied by a slight mal odour of the appendix.
REMA RKS ON THE LIFECYCLE
The lifecycle of Titan Arum has been described above and some conclusions and obser-
vations are described below.
Professor Kohlenbach from the University of Frankfurt donated a specimen of Titan
Arum to the University of Bonn Botanic Gardens on 8 June 1988, the plant having been
propagated by tissue culture 1985. It subsequently owered three times, in 2000, 2003
and 2006. The tuber increased in weight from 36kg (2000) to 78kg (2003) and then up
to 117kg (2006). Until then the heaviest tuber reported was of 72.6kg (Bogner, 1981).
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 81
Fig. 4 Lifecycle of Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum):
a) Tuber with leaf; b) tuber at dormancy; c) bud; d) inorescence; usually after dormancy several periods with
leaves occur until an inorescence is produced.
Drawing: Nils Köster.
82 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
Fig. 5 The tuber is moved from its container
for inspection. The tuber weighed 117kg.
Photo: Markus Radscheit.
Fig. 6 The young generation of Titan Arum
is growing in 1997. The young seedlings are
developing after successful hand-pollination.
Photo: Wilhelm Barthlott.
Fig. 7 This infrutescence developed after
hand-pollination in 1996. Approximately 500
berries could ripen.
Photo: Wilhelm Barthlott.
Fig. 8 Typical leaf-bud of Titan Arum, which
is arrow shaped, perfectly round in diameter
and the tip of the cataphyll is exactly in the
Photo: Wilhelm Barthlott.
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 83
Therefore, it seemed unlikely that the 2003 weight of 78kg would ever be superseded.
The same tuber produced an inorescence of 2.575m in height in 2000, with 2.74m
(3.06m height measured from the tuber is the world record) in 2003 and three inores-
cences in 2006 (Fig. 10). Two opened on 13 May 2006 and the third on 16 May 2006. It
is the rst time that one tuber of A. titanum has produced more than one inorescence. J.
Bogner (pers. comm.) and personal observations report that the phenomena of multiple
blooms has occurred before in A. konjac. Those plants also developed three leaves after-
wards and at that time there were already three small new tubers visible.
Our observations, especially those made during the owering and post owering
phase in 2003 and 2006, lead us to the assumption that A. titanum behaves as most other
Amorphophallus species. Once the plant exceeds a critical size more than one ino-
rescence and leaf can be produced. Finally the tuber will divide into smaller units and
normal life cycle resumes.
DORMA NCY AND STOR AGE
The leaf should be left on the plant tuber until it detaches itself. The lower part of the
petiole may decay into a mud-like liquid on the tuber and the petiole can easily be
removed. This liquid should remain on the tuber and must not be removed, otherwise
it may result in injury of the tuber. During dormancy the tuber has to be stored in the
compost, where it should not dry out. Larger containers keep enough moisture for a long
period but small pots tend to dry out fast. Smaller units therefore need to be kept evenly
moist. Once a week the tubers need to be checked for signs of new growth and this is
easily observed through the hole in the compost created by the petiole.
MANAGING THE SPECTACLE
There are very few occasions in botanic gardens that attract as many visitors as when a
Titan Arum comes into bloom. The media potential is enormous and therefore the event
needs to be well prepared. Experience has shown that Titan Arum blooms are a magnet
for visitors of all age groups. The critical point is the clear diagnosis of whether the
bud will develop into a ower or leaf (see above). As described above there are only
around 30 days to prepare for the owering spectacle in the gardens (see above, Table 4).
However, the nal day when the spathe opens cannot be clearly predicted (see above).
The owering event is a great chance to present the botanic garden to a wider
audience as thousands of visitors can be expected over a short period of time. During
the past owering events at Bonn more than 10,000 people visited the garden on each
occasion, queuing for up to 2.5 hours. Even bad weather did not distract the interested
masses. At Bonn some 16,000 visitors were attracted over four rainy days to see the
bloom in 2003.
Although the prediction can be made quite precise there are still pitfalls that may
cause a problem. On the morning of 23 May 2003 the press was informed that the bloom
84 WOLFRAM LOBIN ET AL.
Fig. 9 Bud from an inorescence of Titan Arum.
The typical asymmetrical shape can be seen. Photo:
Fig. 10 In 2006, Titan Arum surprised with three
inorescences from one tuber.
This has never happened before.
Photo: Wilhelm Barthlott.
Fig.11 The show is over, 4 days after opening, the
Photo: Markus Radscheit.
THE CULTIVATION OF TITAN ARUM (AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM) 85
would not open until the following day. However, in the early afternoon of the same
day, the bloom started to unfold causing problems of how to manage both the media
It has proved to be very useful to have an internet camera, telephone hotline and
regular press releases to cope with the interest from the public at Bonn. It also helped
greatly during the management of such a public event to have informed the local trafc
police and other authorities at an early stage.
The careful selection of a site where the container can sit is extremely important.
This site not only needs to full the horticultural requirements of the plant but also needs
to be located so that large visitor masses can easily view the bloom. The installation of
a top view camera or a simple mirror is a good idea as it allows visitors to look into the
All human and technical capacities are needed to cope with the enormous public
interest but this is amply paid back by the enthusiasm of the visitors who will admire
your Titan Arum open mouthed.
A. titanum has fascinated many thousands of visitors to botanic gardens worldwide. This
remarkable plant, however, is facing enormous pressure from habitat destruction and
over-collection. In cultivation the Titan Arum requires highly sophisticated cultivation
protocols. It is not easy to cultivate over long periods of time and is a challenge for any
keen horticulturists. Therefore botanic gardens with their various capacities and oppor-
tunities can make a signicant contribution towards the long term ex-situ conservation
of this remarkable and charismatic species.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Marlies von den Driesch, Nadja
Korotkowa and Dr. Junko Oikawa for their critical remarks on the manuscript. Manfred
Koenen, Otto Kriesten and Bernhard Reinken helped us with their horticultural advice.
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