If you missed your opportunity to see and smell Roseville High School’s Tiger the Titan, also known as a Titan Arum, you might have to wait a while. The Titan isn’t expected to bloom again for at least two years.
The Titan Arum, commonly known as the Corpse Flower, is native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and is a rainforest plant that is rarely grown in the United States.
But Roseville High School biology teacher, C.J. Addington, has successfully flowered the first high-school grown Titan in the country.
“Usually universities, botanical gardens and large institutions grow the plant,” Addington said.
The first cultivated Titan grew in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in the late 1800s, while the first United States cultivation took place at the New York Botanical Garden in the 1930s. Only a handful of Titans grow in California, including Ted the Titan, which grows at the University of California, Davis’ Botanical Conservatory.
Addington planted the seed that turned in to the mighty Titan about 10 years ago – a typical gestation period for the plant’s initial flowering. He explained that once the plant flowers, it should flower again every two to three years.
Meanwhile, the Titan’s daddy couldn’t be more proud.
“We opened the doors at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and didn’t close them until 9 p.m., he said of the high school’s greenhouse," he said. "We are guessing that 400 to 500 people came through to look, and to smell the Titan.”
Fetid feet, putrefying produce and rotting remains are just a few of the terms that describe the Titan’s stench.
“There were all kinds of people visiting – students, families, watching their reactions when they came in the door was the best part. As soon as they smelled the plant, they wrinkled their noses,” Addington said. “Sometimes the smell was right there when you walked in, sometimes you had to get close to the plant to smell the stench.”
Addington appreciates the fact that the school has a greenhouse in which to nurse growing botanicals.
“We’re the only school in the district to have a greenhouse,” he said.
Surrounded by tomatoes, elephant ears and a variety of greenery, most would never guess the building housed necrotic smelling plants inside.
“We also grow the Titan’s smaller cousin, the Japanese corpse flower,” Addington said of the plants that use putrid smells to attract flies for pollination.
Though Addington wished the flower would have held out until school was in session next month, he remains pleased with the results.
“The bloom caught us off guard in many ways. It bloomed sooner than expected, and for a shorter time than we had hoped, probably the hot, sunny weather made it do its thing and wrap up fast,” he said.
Nevertheless, he’s thrilled to bring some exposure to the high school – “something exciting happening in the news that has nothing to do with budgets or class sizes – just something nice.”
The plant, which is approximately three feet tall, is considered a baby compared to some Titans, which can grow to 10 feet in height, but it’s still a magnificent sight to behold.
“It’s considered pretty small, but I’m still proud of ours,” Addington said. “I expect a bigger bloom next time.”
For those interested in taking a peek, the flower will stand tall for about a week before it withers and collapses. “The plant will take a month before it leafs and starts its cycle all over again,” Addington said.