Bonn Once again, a Titan Arum has began to bloom in the Botanical Garden in Bonn. Interested people can currently watch the extraordinary natural spectacle on the Internet via the webcam.
The Titan Arum has become as much a part of Bonn as Beethoven or the cathedral. Almost every spring, at least one of the giant plants blooms in the greenhouse of the Botanical Garden. Beautiful to look at, but a little nasty and smelling of carrion. This time it's the turn of two plants, the smaller of which, a good 6 feet tall, unfurled Wednesday night. The other, a meter taller, is a day later. The natural spectacle can be followed live by anyone via a web camera. Because of the pandemic, an in-person visit is not possible, as it was last year.
"People are interested in it, you can still inspire them with it," says Markus Radscheit, the technical director of the Botanic Garden, about the now 30th bloom in Bonn. He says that flowering histories have now been documented as far back as 1937. Currently, there are four Titan Arum in the house. A veritable storm of visitors began in 2008, when word got around about the spectacle - also because it was advertised accordingly. In 2013, it was entered in the Guinness World Records book with a stately specimen measuring 3.10 meters. When the webcam was installed ten years ago, the crowds dropped noticeably, says Radscheit. He suspects that's because of saturation. "Or the images are enough."
Plant takes on female gender
The flower of the Titan Arum, native to Sumatra, is only open for a few hours at a time, starting in the evening. For four to five hours, the plant then takes on female sex. "It stinks and attracts pollinators," Radscheit says, referring to hundreds of carrion beetles held captive in the plant. Then, in a few hours, the tide turns and the Amorphophallus titanum becomes male. Pollen is then available to powder the beetles and release them into the wild. "They then fly 30 to 40 kilometers," says the expert. The cycle begins with the next root. Incidentally, the system is designed in such a way that inbreeding is not possible. The system works practically the same way with native arum plants, such as those that can be observed in the Kottenforst. According to Radscheit, countless insects also live in their blossoms.
Cornelia Löhne, the custodian of the Botanical Gardens, is planning to pollinate the small Titan Arum these days. After that, the plant develops several hundred seeds, but is very likely to die because it is so draining. So they have already harvested 390 seeds in the greenhouse in Bonn. "It's just a question of where do I want to go with all those seeds," Radscheit says. A Titan Arum takes an average of twelve years to reach sexual maturity and then weighs 75 kilograms.
More at www.botgart.uni-bonn.de/webcam.php.
(Original text: Richard Bongartz/Translation: Mareike Graepel)