Monster flower blooming in Switzerland

Several readers have informed me of a rare botanical event happening in Basel, Switzerland.  You should go immediately to have a gander at a very rare—and ephemeral—flower shown on a webcam at the University of Basel.

It’s an Amorphophallus titanum from Sumatra, loosely translated as “giant misshapen penis,” a concupiscent but accurate descriptor.  Isn’t it lovely?

This species has the world’s tallest flower structure, reaching up to 3 meters.  It flowers only very rarely, though, so this event in Switzerland is a must-see.

Unfortunately, like the world’s largest flower, Rafflesia arnoldii, it smells like a decaying corpse.  That’s to attract flies and beetles which, thinking it’s a dead mammal, come to feed—and pollinate it as a byproduct.

The flower remains open for only a day or two, though it takes several weeks to grow. The Basel site gives time-lapse photographs, showing the flower beginning to appear at the end of March.

You can see other pictures of a 2009 bloom here, from which these pictures were taken.


  1. Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Whatever happened to botanical family values and the regard for decency?

  2. Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I desperately hope this is the article that refutes Rule 34.

  3. Sean W.
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Titanum indeed.

    I wonder if the namer of this species was carrying on the tradition of Linnaeus (founder of modern taxonomy) with the salacious name? Linnaeus was a bit obsessed with sex by all accounts, even naming one genus of plants Clitoria apparently.

  4. Umkomasia
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the botanical post Jerry. It is an amazing “flower.” But if I can be a botanical pendant for moment – that large structure is really not a flower but a collection of much smaller flowers (technically a “Spadix”). So Raflessia really is larger in all senses.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted April 25, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

      Right you are. I’ve changed “flower” to “flower structure.”

  5. Grania
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Was God having an off-day when she created this?

  6. daveau
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Oh, my. You’re getting as bad as PZ.

  7. saintstephen
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Truly a wondrous spectacle.

  8. bric
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Kew has a couple of fine specimens, I have never managed to catch it live in flower, but this is what the poor thing looks like after the party is over
    Titan arum after flowering

  9. Geoff
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I would go gay for that flower.

  10. Gayle Stone
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    We had a monster like that here in Fairchild Gardens (Miami) a couple of years ago. Not Quite as large maybe, but big. .

  11. Dominic
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Lords and Ladies..? Araceae? Does this one produce berry-like ‘fruits’?

    • Drosera
      Posted April 26, 2011 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      Yes, big red ones.

  12. Chelydra
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    There is an A. titanum in bloom at Ohio State University right now, though today is probably the last day of bloom. It too has a webcam. You can see the single, tree-sized, heavily divided leaf of another individual in the background with a yellow sign on it.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Does it have a nickname?
      The plant has been dubbed “Woody” after the legendary OSU football coach Woody Hayes, also a rare breed.

      Yeah, right…


      Great link! Thanks!

  13. Posted April 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    A local nurseryman, Tony Avent, here in NC, loves Aroids and has quite a few Amorphophallus available by mail order. No A. titanum yet, but perhaps one day he will.

    The nursery is called Plant Delights. See his Voodoo Lily page here:
    By the way, his catalog is well worth reading even if you don’t want to buy. Tony is well-known for his humor.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      Lynn, THANKS for that link! I love sites like that!!

  14. Posted December 22, 2012 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    in my country Indonesia

    we have it too..

    its name Rafflesia arnoldii

  15. Posted July 19, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Here’s an ever rarer sight in Toronto:

    It took 75 years to bloom, and it will never happen again, because the plant will die after it blooms. The conservatory cut a hole in the glass roof to permit the bloom to happen.

  16. Posted December 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    What’s up, I wish for to subscribe for this
    weblog to obtain newest updates, so where can i do it please help out.

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