Greenhouse and Garden Manager Josh Darfler reports the Amorphophallus konjac, voodoo lily, is once again blooming in the Lynch Laboratory greenhouses. The greenhouse staff is especially excited this year because one of our two A. konjac flowers won third place at the 2018 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, and now our second one is just opening up! Be sure to come by the greenhouse for a real olfactory surprise, but be quick the flowers don’t last long.
Amorphophallus konjac is a member of the Aroid family (Areaceae) and is native to subtropical regions of Southeast Asia where the corm (a modified stem organ in plants that stores starches underground) is used as a food source, especially in Japan. Voodoo lilies are best known for their unique smell - that of rotting meat. Amorphophallus species are commonly pollinated by beetles and flies, and so to attract their pollinators the flowers create a very pungent odor, one that can really overwhelm the greenhouse. Some members of the genus even raise the temperature of their inflorescence several degrees above ambient temperature to further trick insects into thinking that it is a rotting carcass. The original corm was gifted to the University of Pennsylvania by Ohio University back in 2015 and has since divided into two mature sized corms.