Habitat: Tropical areas all over the world, except in America: Africa, Oceania, Asia and several oceanic islands especially the Pacific.
Cultivation: Exposure semi-shaded, humid environment, fertile,well-draining substrate (more tips below!).
Curiosity: This genus includes A. titanus, the plant with the biggest inflorescence in the world (over 3 meters!). The name of its genus refers to the inflorescence of these plants, called spadix, typical of the Araceae family of which Amorphophallus is part, and that in fact has a phallic shape.
Amorphophallus is a genus of tropical plants that includes about 200 species, all native to tropical climates and widespread all over the world, except in America: Africa, Oceania, Asia and several oceanic islands especially the Pacific.
The name ” Amorphophallus” comes from the ancient Greek “Amorphos”, which means “shapeless”, and “phallus”, phallus. This name refers to the inflorescence of these plants, called spadix, typical of the Araceae family of which Amorphophallus is part, and that in fact has a phallic shape: it is a very protruding stem, often very elongated (in A. titanus reaches even 3 meters!!!), which contains microscopic male and female flowers. In Amorphophallus the spadix is adorned with a calyx of different colors depending on the species, often purple, very showy, which makes the inflorescence very similar to a single, huge flower.
These flowers often give off nauseating smells: rotting meat, rancid cheese, excrement or urine and other “delicacies”, so much so that one of these species, probably the most incredible, Amorphophallus titanus, was discovered by an Italian botanist, Odoardo Beccari, in 1878, because he came across a tremendous and very strong smell of corpse while walking in the Sumatra rainforest. Thinking it was an animal carcass, I followed its trail for a considerable distance, until I came across this huge, nauseating flower. Absurd, isn’t it? Not too much, if you think about it. In fact, flowers have only one mission: to attract pollinators. Not always, however, pollinators are adorable bees or butterflies: sometimes they are different species of flies or insects that feed on rotting meat. So what better way to attract them than to simulate the smell of these “goodies”? From this we can deduce the intelligence of the Amorphophallus, which “disguise themselves” as corpses to attract different species of flies, which therefore come to lay their eggs in these huge inflorescences and, unintentionally, pollinate the small flowers. Unfortunately, the poor fly larvae find themselves in a flower instead of a carcass and are therefore condemned to starve to death. Scientists have then discovered that A. titanus is also thermogenic, that is, it produces heat: the spadix reaches a temperature of 36ºC! This serves to spread even more the disgusting smell of the flower. In a tropical forest, in fact, air currents are reduced, humidity is high and the environment is filled with odors: all factors that make it difficult for our Amorphophallus to spread its smell. By heating the air, however, convective motions create , i.e. the warm air rises upwards, thus contributing even more to spread the tremendous odor and attract pollinators.
Let’s also talk a little bit about the plant in general: Amorphophallus are perennials of variable size and always equipped with tubers, which in some cases are also edible after the elimination of toxic and irritating substances and are traditionally consumed in times of famine. From tubers of A. konjac a particular type of noodles is obtained, called shirataki. The tubers of this species are called “Konnyaku” and are consumed mainly in Japan and Korea.
From these tubers usually develops a single leaf, carried by a more or less elongated peduncle depending on the species, which remains for the whole growing season.
VARIETY AND TYPES
There are a lot of different species of Amorphophallus and it’s not possible to write all of them here, so we will mention only a few of them. Anyway, check our online store to find out more ones!
- Amorphophallus aberrans
- Amorphophallus baumannii
- Amorphophallus commutatus
- Amorphophallus declinatus
- Amorphophallus eburneus
- Amorphophallus gigas
- Amorphophallus koratensis
- Amorphophallus krausei
- Amorphophallus laoticus
- Amorphophallus macrorhizus
- Amorphophallus minor
- Amorphophallus nanus
- Amorphophallus obovoideus
- Amorphophallus paeoniifolius
TIPS FOR GROWING
Amorphophallus can give great satisfaction when grown carefully.
- Put your Amorphophallus in semi-shade.
- Amorphophallus love humidity and semi-shade: remember that their natural habitat is tropical forests! The ideal would be to keep them in the greenhouse, as warm as possible, and water them often, so as to keep the soil always partially humid.
- Irrigation should also continue in winter, although more rarely: the soil should never dry out completely, but neither should it be totally saturated with water: there would be a risk of root rot. Some species, however, come from less strictly tropical habitats and require a completely dry substrate during winter.
- Repotting should be more or less frequent depending on the vigor of the species: in vigorous species such as A. titanus it is advisable to repot at least once a year, when new leaves begin to grow, usually at the beginning of Spring.
- It’s important to use a well-drained soil: to begin with, universal soil enriched with perlite may also be fine. Amorphophallus, however, require a fertile soil: it is important to often add a fertilizer rich in all nutrients, which can be found in any nursery, enriching it, if possible, with bone meal. The amount of fertilizer and the recommended frequency of fertilization depend on the species.
The propagation of Amorphophallus usually takes place through the tubers, which often produce offsets around the main plant.