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Thread: The World's Largest Flower

  1. #1
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    The World's Largest Flower

    OK, I realise that WAB rarely concerns itself with things horticultural. Sort of hard for gardening chit chat to compete with battleship specs & civil wars. However, I think this is sufficiently remarkable to warrant a thread.

    I Stood in line for 2 hours at Melbourne's Royal Botanical gardens to see this. it is ther Titan Arum, the largest flower in the world. it is native to Borneo and only flowers once every 7-8 years. The flower only lasts 48 hours or so. It can grow to 3 meters and weigh 50 kilos - bigger tha nsome adults. Apparently they often smell like rotting flesh - a ploy to attract polinators - earning it the name 'corpse flower'. People fly all over the world & wait years to see these bloom - one of the ladies in the left of the bottom photo apparently waited 12 years to finally see one. Tens of thousands of people passed through that glass house over the last few days. Glad I was one of them. A true privilege.

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    Name:  giant flower small 2.JPG
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    I never really understood what natural and evolutionary catalysts there were that made it necessary for flowers to wait for years only to blossom for several days and then die. What goal did that serve?
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigross86 View Post
    I never really understood what natural and evolutionary catalysts there were that made it necessary for flowers to wait for years only to blossom for several days and then die. What goal did that serve?
    Hmm a bit like the mayfly / midges ( the dance of the duns ) /and the sock-eye salmon , strange innit


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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    I suspect it is one of those 'evolution fills every niche' deals. Ain't nature grand!


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    Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    I heard that someone in the Milwaukee area had one of these in their shop (it may have been a restraunt)- it was in the papers a few years ago. Very impressive flower, that one looks bigger than the local picture I saw - from what I heard, the one here one lived up to its reputation for foul smell.
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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by USSWisconsin View Post
    I heard that someone in the Milwaukee area had one of these in their shop (it may have been a restraunt)- it was in the papers a few years ago. Very impressive flower, that one looks bigger than the local picture I saw - from what I heard, the one here one lived up to its reputation for foul smell.
    It was one of thsoe classic 'it looks so much more impressive in the flesh' moments. The photos are remarkable, but actually standing next to it just blows your mind.

    Funnily enough I got a phone call from my mum later in the afernoon. She wanted to come over for dinner and was standing in line to see the flower (the gardens are not that far from me). She figured she might as well work out the arrangements while she had nothing better to do. She was as impressed as I was.
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    Military Professional dave lukins's Avatar
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    These are really impressive flowers and even more so when in full bloom. However, having one in a shop or restaurant is not the right way to keep loyal customers.
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    Senior Contributor bonehead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigross86 View Post
    I never really understood what natural and evolutionary catalysts there were that made it necessary for flowers to wait for years only to blossom for several days and then die. What goal did that serve?
    Some of this happens in the desert. The conditions for reproduction must be just right or all is lost. Take the Sonoran desert toad for instance. The mating has to coincide with rain so the offspring get a chance to develop in the ponds before they dry up again. No rain this year? the toads wait until next year to mate..if then. When the conditions are right they mass into a huge ball for a massive orgy. They are not picky so if you stick your hand in there you will get lucky....Multiple times. They even have a vocal "eh eh" which is toad for, "thats my ass moron, find some other hole" or the more vicious, " I said back the hell up and find someone else....don't make me pull out!!"
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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bonehead View Post
    Some of this happens in the desert. The conditions for reproduction must be just right or all is lost. Take the Sonoran desert toad for instance. The mating has to coincide with rain so the offspring get a chance to develop in the ponds before they dry up again. No rain this year? the toads wait until next year to mate..if then. When the conditions are right they mass into a huge ball for a massive orgy. They are not picky so if you stick your hand in there you will get lucky....Multiple times. They even have a vocal "eh eh" which is toad for, "thats my ass moron, find some other hole" or the more vicious, " I said back the hell up and find someone else....don't make me pull out!!"
    I think this is a different situation. If conditions are right these things will bloom on a schedule - every 7-8 years - rather than being opportunistic. Apparently much of that time is spent storing the energy to send up leaves (there is one to the right of the flower - about the same height) and then to flower. Flowering is actually a huge effort & requires big energy stores. The tubers for these things are 50kg to 100+kg in weight. When the flower finally emerges not only does it smell like rotting organic matter, it is also warm - similar temperature to the human body. My bet is that this is one of those 'evolutionary niche' things, as there are other, similar flowers that do the same thing - big, stinky, short lived blooms. I suspect they have evolved in nutrient rich sheltered environments where they store a lot of energy but where the only aids to pollination are animals. The heat & smell draws the animals (insects & birds) in, but in order to cast as wide a net as possible in an environment without breeze it has evolved to produce as much heat & smell as possible. That is my guess, anyway.


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    Senior Contributor bonehead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    I think this is a different situation. If conditions are right these things will bloom on a schedule - every 7-8 years - rather than being opportunistic. Apparently much of that time is spent storing the energy to send up leaves (there is one to the right of the flower - about the same height) and then to flower. Flowering is actually a huge effort & requires big energy stores. The tubers for these things are 50kg to 100+kg in weight. When the flower finally emerges not only does it smell like rotting organic matter, it is also warm - similar temperature to the human body. My bet is that this is one of those 'evolutionary niche' things, as there are other, similar flowers that do the same thing - big, stinky, short lived blooms. I suspect they have evolved in nutrient rich sheltered environments where they store a lot of energy but where the only aids to pollination are animals. The heat & smell draws the animals (insects & birds) in, but in order to cast as wide a net as possible in an environment without breeze it has evolved to produce as much heat & smell as possible. That is my guess, anyway.
    To be sure it takes quite a bit of energy to form such a huge flower. I am also sure the aroma is meant to lure specific organisms. Evolution created all kinds of peculiar ways to propagate and live.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    I think this is a different situation. If conditions are right these things will bloom on a schedule - every 7-8 years - rather than being opportunistic. Apparently much of that time is spent storing the energy to send up leaves (there is one to the right of the flower - about the same height) and then to flower. Flowering is actually a huge effort & requires big energy stores. The tubers for these things are 50kg to 100+kg in weight. When the flower finally emerges not only does it smell like rotting organic matter, it is also warm - similar temperature to the human body. My bet is that this is one of those 'evolutionary niche' things, as there are other, similar flowers that do the same thing - big, stinky, short lived blooms. I suspect they have evolved in nutrient rich sheltered environments where they store a lot of energy but where the only aids to pollination are animals. The heat & smell draws the animals (insects & birds) in, but in order to cast as wide a net as possible in an environment without breeze it has evolved to produce as much heat & smell as possible. That is my guess, anyway.
    Similar to what I was thinking- Rafflesia and skunk cabbage come to mind, and I believe there's a South African plant that also has big stinky flowers. I'm not sure about the others, but skunk cabbage definitely does the high temperature trick, too. I'm still not sure about why they have to be big, but it may simply be a matter of thermodynamics- heat is extremely energetically expensive, and my intuition is that getting to a sufficiently high temperature is really only efficient for large structures. Very small warm blooded animals, for example, have absolutely ridiculous energy requirements that I doubt could be matched by a plant for very long.
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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Bigfella, did it really smell like rotting flesh?

    There is one at Pasadena Arboritum near me, but I never had the chance to visit. I'm not too keen on the "rotting flesh" smell.

    Very nice photos.
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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    Bigfella, did it really smell like rotting flesh?

    There is one at Pasadena Arboritum near me, but I never had the chance to visit. I'm not too keen on the "rotting flesh" smell.

    Very nice photos.
    Apparently it smelled on the first day it opened but not the second. According to the guy at the door there is no real pattern to this. Sometimes they stink, sometimes no so much. I was actually a bit dissappointed - the smell is all part of the 'experience', but there was literally no smell. If you get the chance it is worth seeing.


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