Arum Scarem

Master gardener Paul James reveals an extraordinary flower with an unexpected trait.
Similar Topics:


First discovered in 1878 by an Italian botanist, the first arum to flower in the U.S. was in 1937. Since then, fewer than 17 have flowered and the reason for the infrequency is clear enough. It takes six to 10 years for the underground stem to store enough energy to flower, and even then, there's no real guarantee. After flowering, the plant produces a single spotted stalk.



The "stalk" is actually a leaf, at the top of which are numerous leaflets. In the wild, this particular species can grow to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide.



The reason for this flower's peculiar odor is related to the ideal pollinators for this plant -- carrion beetles and flesh flies -- both of which are abundant on the island of Sumatra. By attracting not one but two insects, the 'corpse flower is able to ensure its survival. And this plant also has thousands of flowers contained within this fleshy central pod, which you can see, thanks to this man-made viewing hole. But incredibly, or thankfully, the flower lasts only three days, and if it's successfully pollinated, it will produce thousands of cherry-sized fruits. Sumatran birds prize the fruit and deposit the seeds. This sets the groundwork for a forest full of the corpse flowers.



Every now and then an event takes place in the plant world that generates a good deal of interest. One such event is the blooming of the Titan arum. One of the largest flowers in the world, the Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium, kin to calla lilies, Jack-in-the-pulpits, dieffenbachia and philodendrons) has an even more curious claim to fame. Native to the rainforest in central Sumatra in Indonesia, this flower is known to natives as the "corpse flower" because the Titan arum is extremely odiferous.

"I should know because I had an opportunity to get a whiff up close and personal at the University of California in Davis, and it exuded a smell that I will never forget," says master gardener Paul James. "In fact, to give you an idea of just how foul smelling it was, rotting meat comes to mind."

Next Up

Selecting and Planting Flower Bulbs

From the purchase to maintaining them throughout the season, this simple guide to bulbs will help ensure garden success.

Planting Annuals: When and How To Plant Annual Flowers

Learn the ins and outs of planting annuals, including when to plant annuals and techniques you can use to boost success.

Look-Alike Flowers

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as these flowers prove. They're glam look-alikes for other blooms.

Unconventional Flowers for Fall

When you're looking for unusual fall flowers, think spring for autumn color.

Growing Carnations

Try your hand at growing these floral favorites.

Impatiens Is a Virtue

Consider this very popular annual for shady garden spots.

Plant a Landscape of Hybrid Lilies

Daylilies come in almost every color including near-whites and blue hues, so follow these tips and suggestions for choosing the best lilies for your garden.

Sweet Peas

Lots of blooms, lots of color and great fragrance--sweet peas have everything you could want in a flower.

Melampodium: Our Favorite Flowers

Learn where to grow melampodium, a fast-growing annual that loves the sun.

Ligularia (Leopard Plant): Our Favorite Flowers

Take off with these rocket-shaped flowers.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.