Plans are in place, but it’s a titanic wait….
The guessing game goes on at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, as staff continue their twice daily inspection of the titan arum for clues as to when it might finally come into flower.
Anticipation reached fever pitch on Tuesday night when the third and final bract fell from the developing flower structure, but the titan arum still seems reluctant to open up. ‘Plus,’ says Alex Summers, Glasshouse Supervisor at the Garden, ‘it is still growing. It put on 4cm in height overnight to reach 124cm and the base of the structure is still swelling as the titan arum prepares to flower.’
Alex adds: We thought that this titan arum might come into flower quicker than our 2004 specimen as it is growing from a smaller tuber – we’ve dubbed it ‘Tiny’ - but so far it is following the same growth rate trajectory. We continue to monitor Tiny closely, taking measurements in the morning and having another good look in the early afternoon as this is when we expect to see signs of the flower structure begin to open. We’re all on tenterhooks!
The interest in this rare flowering, which will only last two days, has been phenomenal with thousands viewing and sharing the news on Facebook and Twitter, and watching the live webcam, which has occasionally crashed due to numbers of titan watchers crowding the available bandwidth.
Professor Beverley Glover, Director of the Botanic Garden, said:
Team Tiny Titan at the Garden are all set to go. The special lighting is in, the volunteer and staff rotas are organised, the print is done - we just need Tiny to be triggered into flower! It’s like being pregnant with your first child and being days overdue. You get so impatient!
When Tiny does flower, we will be opening late at the Garden for as many people as possible to enjoy the spectacle of one of the largest single flowering structures coming into bloom, accompanied by, we hope, its famous night-time stench! Last admission will be at 10pm.
For now, Tiny titan watchers should keep checking the Garden’s website for news and follow @CUBotanicGarden #tinytitan
To while away the wait, Botanic Garden staff have come up with some Tiny activities:
- Take a look at the growth chart to the left, up to date as of 15 July, which compares the 2004 flowering with Tiny’s development and run a sweepstake as to when the titan will flower. Tweet your best guesses to @CUBotanicGarden #tinytitan
- Download the titan arum colouring sheet from the website at www.botanic.cam.ac.uk, doodle some new colour schemes and share on the Garden’s Facebook page /CUBotanicGarden
- Download the Garden’s information booklet ‘Tiny Titan kicks up a rare stink’ and do some homework!
- Keep watching the live webcam trained on Tiny – you could be one of the lucky 500 who can view it at any one time! Find it at http://www.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/news/2015-07-14
- Enjoy a timelapse of the Garden’s 2004 titan arum flowering on the Garden’s YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/pFncFg3LEhk) where you can also search for an extract from the BBC’s Private Life of Plants in which David Attenborough tracks down a titan in flower in its native rainforests in Sumatra, Indonesia.
- The Botanic Garden will stay open late on the two nights the titan arum is in flower
Admission out of normal Garden opening hours to the Glasshouse Range will be by the Brookside Gate only.
Last admission will be 10pm.
Admission to the Botanic Garden out of normal Garden opening hours in order to visit the titan arum will be £3 for adults (17+). Friends of Cambridge University Botanic Garden, accompanied children aged 0-16 inclusive and Cambridge University students in possession of a valid University Card will be admitted free of charge.
Fun facts about the titan arum:
Amorphophallus translates as ‘mis-shapen penis’
The titan arum was introduced to Europe in 1878 by Dr Odoardo Beccari, who spent 13 years exploring and botanising in southeast Asia under the protection of his friend, James Brooke, the first Rajah of Sarawak
New Reekie, which flowered at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, in June 2015 grew from a record-breaking tuber weighing 153kg (@TitanArum RBGE)
It was once thought that the titan arum was pollinated by elephants!
There are around 200 different species of Amorphophallus in the Araceae family, and the Garden has 13 in its collection
The tuber of the titan arum in flower at the Botanic Garden was brought into the collection in 2000. Before sending up the flowering bud, it had been dormant for nearly eight months. It was last re-potted in October 2014 when it weighted 12kg. It is potted into a mix of coir, sand and pumice and is given a weekly soluble feed. Once in growth it is watered every other day
The titan arum is related to the more diminutive, British hedgerow native, Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum).