Blooming heck! Is this the biggest flower in the world?
Gardeners at the Eden Project in Cornwall are waiting with baited breath to see if a giant rainforest plant becomes the biggest flower ever to be grown indoors.
The freaky plant, known as a Titan Arum (Latin name Amorphophallus titanum), has taken nine years to get to its current height of 250cm (8 feet 2 inches) and the flower is now growing 13cm (5 inches) a day. It will flower for only two to three days before dying.
The biggest ever Titan Arum in captivity flowered in New Hampshire, USA and measured a whopping 3.1m high.
Eden’s resident expert Tim Grigg used his plant skills to get the Titan Arum to flower in time for the upcoming Freaky Nature activities which begin tomorrow (Saturday May 28). He predicts that the Titan will flower next week (May 30 to June 5). The tuber from which this specimen has sprouted weighed in at a staggering 120kg, the biggest Tim has ever harvested.
The Titan will be just one exhibit in an amazing showcase of the weird and wonderful world of plants. Visitors to Freaky Nature can check out interactive exhibits and discover the ingenious tricks plants have come up with to help them survive.
There will be poisonous plants, spiky plants, sticky plants, carnivorous plants, exploding plants and - in the case of the Titan arum – giant smelly plants. The Titan will feature in the event’s freaky tours of the rainforest.
The giant plant will be the fifth example that has flowered at Eden and, for the first time ever, will be joined in the Biome by another specimen which is due to flower shortly after. Tim hopes to be able to use pollen from the first plant to pollinate the second and thereby breed many more seeds.
Tim said: “This beautiful plant is already bigger than any other Titan Arum flower I've ever grown and I'm getting very excited to see what the final height will be - here's hoping for a new world record!
“This is the first time that I have ever had two Titan flowers blooming at the same time and I'm really proud, especially considering how rare they are.”
Tim, who is based at the Eden Project’s Watering Lane Nursery, has established himself as one of the world’s top experts on the plants, having successfully pollinated and propagated Titans since he nurtured Eden’s first specimen to flower in 2005. He currently has just under a hundred examples of the plant in various stages of development.
The plant hails from Sumatra and is a distant relative of the ‘lords and ladies’, a British lily. The plant is distinguished by its yellowy, fleshy spike known as a spadix. This is wrapped in a single cream leaf which, when opened, reveals a rich crimson inside.
When the plant is ready to attract pollinators, the spike heats up and gives off the smell which disgusts humans but is very attractive to insects. It then develops the fruit which attracts birds.
This year, Freaky Nature comes with an intriguing extra feature - added poo. Freaky Nature with Poo! delves deep into the science of dirt, poo and the magic of manure, looking at what it’s made of, why it smells, how it is treated and the weird and wonderful things it’s used for. The event has been developed with the Wellcome Trust as part of their Dirt season.
Freaky Nature with Poo! takes place across the Eden site from May 28 until June 5. All Freaky Nature activities are included in the price of Eden admission except the Sticky Survival event in the Arena which is £2.50 per person, with tickets available at the Freaky Nature shop.