A rare corpse flower was reported as blooming at Bogor Botanical Gardens' Plant Conservation Research Center (PKT) in Bogor, West Java, on Saturday.
The flower, the Indonesian name of which – bunga bangkai – translates into English as “carcass flower”, is 1.94 meters tall and has a diameter of 1 m. It is estimated to wither in the next few days.
The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), which runs the Bogor Botanical Gardens, reportedly obtained the tuber of the giant flower through a collaboration with the Liwa Botanical Gardens in Lampung.
Bogor Mayor Bima Arya, who joined a group that witnessed the blooming on Saturday, said the corpse flower as well as the parasitic flowering plant Rafflesia, were two gems of the gardens.
"The Bogor Botanical Gardens serve not only as a center of research, conservation and education but also a recreational spot," Bima said, adding that not many cities in the world had such a place.
Though Rafflesia is also locally known as bunga bangkai for its pungent smell, the two plants are different.
The corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium) is a rare species that can only be found in the jungles of Sumatra. A plant of the Araceae family, the giant flower boasts a giant tuber as well, which can weigh up to 117 kilograms.
The Bogor Botanical Gardens currently have two old tubers and four young tubers of the species, the latter of which are around seven years old.
According to LIPI researcher Dian Latifah, the corpse flower has different growth stages of leaves and flower. The growth of the leaves can take one to two years. Afterward, the tuber will enter a dormant phase that can take more than 1.5 years before the flower finally blooms.
The plant actually has some tiny male and female flowers lingering on the base of its yellow spadix, which is surrounded by purple red spathe. The spadix can reach 3 meters in height, which is why it is considered a giant flower.
The tuber is said to have health benefits for humans, as it contains glucomannan, which is useful as a thickening substance, dietary fiber and dietary supplement for to control cholesterol, blood sugar and weight.
However, researching the many benefits of the tuber is challenging, since the plant requires 10 to 15 years to bloom if it is grown from seeds, and more than 20 years if it is grown using tissue culture.
PKT head Hendrian said the conservation of threatened plant species in Indonesia was one of the main goals of LIPI this year. Similar to the Rafflesia, the Amorphophallus titanum is threatened by many factors, such as illegal logging, habitat destruction and the decreasing number of pollinators.
Therefore, the corpse flower has been included in the rare plant category based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s classification and is protected by Government Regulation (PP) No. 7 of 1999.
According to PKT research done by Poerba and Yuzammi, saving the corpse flower requires human intervention in the form of mass and fast breeding, such as through tissue culture followed by reintroduction to nature.
Other than conservation, PKT also plans to significantly increase its exploration activities of such species and revitalize facilities at the gardens, starting with building a new orchid greenhouse and laboratory in early 2020. (kes)
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