Sunday, March 24, 2013

Titan Arum - The World's Tallest Flower

An early blooming Titan Arum
Last updated: Jan 9th 2017

Rainforests of Bengkulu province are also home to the world's tallest flower and possibly the smelliest flower Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), known locally as bunga Kibut or bunga Bangkai (English carrion flower) due to its odor which is like the smell of a rotting animal. Titan arum is a tropical plant native to Sumatra. The plant was first discovered by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in Sumatra – Indonesia in 1878. Now, the plant is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The first known use of the name Titan arum was by an English broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough to refer to this gigantic tropical plant during the filming of the Private Life of Plants series in 1993 for BBC TV series. Attenborough felt that constantly referring to the plant as Amorphophallus titanium (meaning huge deformed penis) on popular BBC TV series would be inappropriate where viewers might feel uncomfortable or even might be offended by the plant’s scientific name. 

Titan Arum or Kibut is reminiscent of the smell of rotting flesh
The lili-like Titan arum, or also known as Kibut is a really rare and a unique plant. It generally grows in primary rainforest where the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed and  it requires 7–10 years of vegetative growth before blooming for the first time.   The flower of Titan arum is a rich red, with a huge yellow stamen sticking out from its core, when it throws up a spectacular flower spike that can stand over 2 m (6.5 feet) high. Titan arum creates such a stink because when the flower is fully open, it gets hot and emits a repulsive scent that is attractive to its insect pollinators. It only lasts about 2 or 3 days before collapsing.  

Titan arum can be found in several areas in the rainforests of Bengkulu province, normally in Kepahiang region (60 km or 37 miles from the city of Bengkulu) and in Taba Penanjung (45 km or 28 miles from the city of Bengkulu) on the slopes of the Bukit Barisan Mountains that are 120–365 m (394 - 1,194 ft) above sea level, the most accessible being close to the main road halfway between Bengkulu and Curup. Now Titan arum is one of Bengkulu's floral emblems. 

Scientific classification                                       Klik di sini untuk versi bahasa Indonesia
Kingdom: Plantae 
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Genus: Amorphophallus
Species: A. titanum
Scientific name: Amorphophallus titanium 
More informally it is also called Titan arum, Kibut, carrion flower or corpse flower.

Kibut - the tallest flower on the planet
Interesting facts about Titan arum
  • When the inflorescence is fully open, Titan arum produces an overpowering stench of rotting flesh to attract insect pollinators such as corpse-eating beetles and flesh flies (Sarcophaga). 
  • This plant rarely blooms in cultivation but Mr. Holidin, a horticulturist, has had a remarkable success rate having produced several Titan arum for display in the village of Tebat Monok, Kepahiang district, Indonesia. 
  • Titan arum grows up from an underground tuber which may weigh up to 70 kg (150 pounds) and which can stay dormant for 1 to 3 years.
  • The tuber produces leaf and flower at different times.
  • The scientific name Amorphophallus titanum (from Ancient Greek amorphos + phallos, and titan) means “huge deformed penis” where people might feel uncomfortable or even get offended by the plant’s scientific name. Its Indonesian common name, bunga bangkai, roughly translated means ‘carrion flower’ due to its odor which is reminiscent of the smell of rotting flesh.

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More photos:
Titan Arum is a rich red, with a huge yellow stamen protruding from its core
Seeing a Titan Arum in the village of Tebat Monok - Kepahiang
The bud of Kibut/Titan Arum
Titan Arum can reach over 2 m (6.5 ft) in height
It takes 7–10 years to develop before blooming for the first time
The bloom of the Titan arum, Tebat Monok - Kepahiang Jan 2nd 2017

Photographed in Tebat Monok, Kepahiang - Indonesia
Photos by Adriansyah Putera, Sirly Adriansyah & Kaneko Kenji


  1. I have never seen this plant during my Sumatra trip. Hopefully can see one this summer.

  2. When I stay in Bengkulu, can I ask you a guide for Rafflesia and Kibut?