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Titan arum (Amorphophallus ) is the Amorphophallus with the largest inflorescence
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Tribe: Thomsonieae
Genus: Amorphophallus
Blume ex Decne.
Type species
Amorphophallus paeoniifolius

See text

  • Thomsonia Wall.
  • Pythion Mart.
  • Candarum Schott
  • Pythonium Schott
  • Kunda Raf.
  • Brachyspatha Schott
  • Conophallus Schott
  • Plesmonium Schott
  • Corynophallus Schott
  • Allopythion Schott
  • Hansalia Schott
  • Hydrosme Schott
  • Rhaphiophallus Schott
  • Synantherias Schott
  • Dunalia Montrouz.
  • Proteinophallus Hook.f.
  • Tapeinophallus Baill.
  • Pseudodracontium N.E.Br.

Amorphophallus (from Ancient Greek amorphos, "without form, misshapen" + phallos, "penis", referring to the shape of the prominent spadix) is a large genus of some 200 tropical and subtropical tuberous herbaceous plants from the Arum family (Araceae), native to Asia, Africa, Australia and various oceanic islands.[1][2] A few species are edible as "famine foods" after careful preparation to remove irritating chemicals.[3] The genus includes the Titan arum (A. titanum) of Indonesia, which has the largest inflorescence of any plant in the genus, and is also known as the 'corpse flower' for the pungent odour it produces during its flowering period, which can take up to seven years of growth before it occurs.[4]


The oldest systematic record of the plants was in 1692, when Van Rheede tot Drakenstein published descriptions of two plants. The name "Amorphophallus" was first mentioned in 1834 by the Dutch botanist Blume.[5] Between 1876 and 1911, Engler merged a number of other genera into Amorphophallus, with a final monograph published in 1911.[5]often referred to as purple aki.


These are typical lowland plants, growing in the tropical and subtropical zones of the paleotropics, from West Africa to the Pacific Islands. None of them are found in the Americas although a remarkably similar but not closely related genus, Dracontium, has evolved there. Most species are endemic. They grow preferentially on disturbed grounds, such as secondary forests.


Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, the elephant foot yam, a species cultivated in the tropical Indo-Pacific for their edible corms

These small to massive plants grow from a subterranean tuber. Amorphophallus tubers vary greatly from species to species, from the quite uniformly globose tuber of A. konjac to the elongated tubers of A. longituberosus and A. macrorhizus to the bizarre clustered rootstock of A. coaetaneus. From the top of this tuber a single leaf, which can be several metres across in larger species, is produced atop a trunk-like petiole followed, on maturity, by a single inflorescence. This leaf consists of a vertical leaf stalk and a horizontal blade, which may consist of a number of small leaflets. The leaf lasts one growing season. The peduncle (the primary flower stalk) can be long or short.

As is typical of the Arum family, these species develop an inflorescence consisting of an elongate or ovate spathe (a sheathing bract) which usually envelops the spadix (a flower spike with a fleshy axis). The spathe can have different colors, but mostly brownish-purple or whitish-green. On the inside, they contain ridges or warts, functioning as insect traps.

The plants are monoecious. The spadix has tiny flowers: female flowers, no more than a pistil, at the bottom, then male flowers, actually a group of stamens, and then a blank sterile area. This last part, called 'the appendix', consists of sterile flowers, called staminodes, and can be especially large. There is no corolla.

Once the spathe opens, pollination must happen the same day. In many species, the inflorescence emits a scent of decaying flesh in order to attract insects, though a number of species give off a pleasant odor. Through a number of ingenious insect traps, pollinating insects are kept inside the spathe to deposit pollen on the female flowers, which stay receptive for only one day, while the male flowers are still closed. These open the next day, but by then the female flowers are no longer receptive and so self-pollination is avoided. The male flowers shower the trapped insects with pollen. Once the insects escape, they can then pollinate another flower. Amorphophallus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including Palpifer sexnotatus and Palpifer sordida.

The pollinated flowers then develop a globose berry as a fruit. These can be red, orange-red, white, white and yellow, or blue.

Notable species[edit]

The species Amorphophallus titanum, 'corpse flower' or titan arum, is the world's largest unbranched inflorescence, with a height of up to 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) and a width of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft).[citation needed] After an over 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) tall flower opened at Chicago Botanical Gardens on September 29, 2015, thousands lined up to see and smell it. The floriculturalist described it smelling "like roadkill, a barnyard, a dirty diaper, very strong, a little bit of mothball smell too". Native to the Indonesian rainforest it takes 10 years to blossom. Dubbed "Alice" its bloom was broadcast via live webcam. It is one of two plants at the Botanical Garden, which kept open until 2 am on September 30 to accommodate visitors.[6]

A runner-up is Amorphophallus gigas, which is taller, but has a somewhat smaller flower.[citation needed]

Amorphophallus konjac tubers are used to make konnyaku (コンニャク), a Japanese thickening agent and edible jelly containing glucomannan.[citation needed]

Some species are called voodoo lily, as are some species of Typhonium (also in the Araceae).[7][8]


Titan Arum - close-up
Amorphophallus bulbifer
Amorphophallus prainii
Amorphophallus rivieri


  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Sedayu, A., C. M. Eurlings, Gravendeel, B., & Hetterscheid, W. (2010). Morphological character evolution of Amorphophallus (Araceae) based on a combined phylogenetic analysis of trnL, rbcL and LEAFY second intron sequences. Botanical Studies, 51, 473–490.
  3. ^ "Robert L. Freedman, The famine foods database". Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  4. ^ "Titan arum". Eden Project. 2018-02-04. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  5. ^ a b Hetterscheid, W., & Ittenbach, S. (1990). Everything you always wanted to know about Amorphophallus but were afraid to stick your nose into! Aroideana, 19, 17-20.
  6. ^ "Thousands line up to see huge stinky flower" (video). Reuters Editors' Picks. Reuters. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015. Chicago's floral celebrity is over four feet tall, incredibly rare, and smells like death
  7. ^ "Voodoo Lily, Amorphophallus konjac". Master Gardener Program. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  8. ^ "Pacific Bulb Society | Sauromatum". Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  • Hetterscheid, W.L.A. 1994. Preliminary taxonomy and morphology of Amorphophallus Blume ex Decaisne (Araceae). In: M.M. Serebreyanyi (ed.), Proc. Moscow Aroid Conference 1992: 35-48. Moscow.
  • Hetterscheid, W.L.A. & G.J.C.M. v. Vliet, 1996. Amorphophallus, giant from the forest. CITES/C&M, 2(4): 86-96.

External links[edit]