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Aroids I

Amorphophallus  pg1

蒟蒻, 魔芋 

 

Amorphophallus is an interesting aroid from the old world - it consists of a tuber that throws up a single leaf that is usually highly divided, hence looking like a papaya tree sometimes. Many of them are decicuous and usually, the bloom appears after the leaf dies down - and this bloom may be the one of the largest or tallest in the world eg for A. titanum and A. gigas or decue silvae. The rather evil looking bloom and its accompanying offensive smell is meant to attract flies or dung beetles but has earned them the name of "Corpse flower" (Indonesian for A. titanum) and "Demon Yam" (Chinese name for this genus) amongst indigenous people. More can be found in the IAS site. Closely related plants include the Dracontiums of the new world, Pseudodrancontiums of IndoChina and the much smaller Typhoniums.

In Malaysia, the common species A. prainii and A. paenifolius are called likir. The indigenous Semang of Perak (Malaysia) expressed the juice from the tuber and is used in their poison hunting dart after mixing with the juice of Upas tree (Antiaris toxicaria). Perhaps the calcium oxalate crystals in the sap stimulate increased blood flow and hasten effect of the poison. Tubers are also used as food after proper cooking, especially for A. paenifolius and bulbifer - non-acrid cultivars have been used for this purpose - pls refer to Dr Misra's website for more information. Seeds of some of the Thai species are also known to be used in curry making. In Chiang Mai, I have also seen the bloom of the wild plant being sold as ingredients for curry. A. konjak is also a widely used health food in East Asia and is a good carbohydrate source for the diabetic. See the Chinese website for more.

 

Silently and without warning,  an Amorphophallus koratensis from Thailand bloomed in October after a long dormancy. This species is found throughout Indochina.  It can be grown fairly easily using free draining soil rich in humus - like all Amorphophallus, stop watering when its dormant.

I was hesistant but Dr Hetterscheid assured me this is the white petiole form of the A. bufo, a native of dense forest of Peninsula Malaysia. This plant is not easy to cultivate as they seem to prefer constantly moist soil and yet can rot easily. 

Both of my Amorphophallus variabilis bloom 1 week apart in July. This is a mid-size plant from Java,  notice the long sterile portion of the spadix in this species. Unlike many members of this family, it has a plain green leaf and petiole. This robust plant is a common crop in parts of Indonesia.

Once again, I detect no smell - but  suposedly it will only exude the famed odour in the late evening and only for 2-3 hours or so.

 

Amorphophallus asterostigmatus  is a very handsome even without bloom, with fine deep green leflets and  a silvery purple stem with spots. Seeds of this plant are reputed to be used for curry making. The known natural occurence of this plant is Lop Buri in Thailand

 

This is the bloom of Amorphophallus sumawongii from Thailand, a recently described species. This is a small plant and the bloom is only about 20cm tall. It likes shade and high humidity during growing season and is probably suitable for indoor culture.

 

Amorphophallus muelleri is a common species throughjout SE Asia, there are many forms but the bloom is more or less similar as shown.

 

This photo is from Dewey Fisk, click on the photo to goto his website.

 

Rob Mcclure has kindly agreed upon the usage of his photo of  A. galbra blooming from his home Down Under. This species is found in PNG and Australia and is unique in its fruity fragrance-  a rare virtue in the world of stinking giants. My plants grow rapidly from seeds and form  white tubers 3cm in diameter after 1 year of growth - its active phase of growth is in November to April.

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