Looking great in the garden in late summer is the little known love lily, Amorphophallus kachinensis. This southeast Asian species has now reached 7′ tall in the garden. Our earlier collections from Thailand were not winter hardy here, but this Peter Zale collection from Myanmar has thrived.
Our 8 year-old clump of Amorphophallus bulbifer ‘Old Warty’ is looking lovely in the garden this week. We love the palm-like form in the summer garden, but selected this clone because it produces more leaf bulbils than any other clone we’ve ever seen. The bulbils, which resemble giant warts, form in late summer in the leaf axils on the top of the leaf. A typical clone of Amorphophallus bulbifer may have from 3-8 bulbils, while A. ‘Old Warty’ usually produces dozens per leaf.
Each bulbil, which is a clone of the original, can be planted after it detaches from the leaf, and will begin growing the following spring. We had so many bulbils one fall, that we gave them out to trick-or-treaters one Halloween, but strangely, those recipients never again returned for more treats- obviously, they weren’t horticulturally inclined. We did tell them not so consume them…honest.
The spring pink flowers have no discernable fragrance, unlike many of the other species of amorphophallus. These have been winter hardy here in Zone 7b for at least three decades, where they thrive in well-drained woodland soils. We will have these available again next year.
Through the years, we’ve trialed 27 different clones of Amorphophallus krausei in the garden for winter hardiness, but only two have consistently survived. The largest is a 2005 Alan Galloway collection from from Son La, Vietnam. Here it is in the garden this week with the 5′ tall flower spikes. The spikes are followed by 7′ tall leaf petioles, making this the tallest winter hardy amorphophallus we’ve encountered. We working to get this amazing giant propagated.
JCRA’s Amorphophallus titanum ‘Wolfgang’ put on quite a show from June 20-23, and now it’s time for our ‘Homo Erectus’ to shine. We anticipate the blessed event at JLBG/Plant Delights beginning on Friday June 30, but please understand that trying to predict nature is anything but an exact science.
Below is an image from June 23, when our plant had reached 51.5″ in height. While most of the Amorphophallus titanums that flower, produce a creamy white spadix (the tall phallic thingy in the center), ours is the much rarer purple spadix form–no doubt due to greatly increase blood flow.
This link takes you both to our live stream, some history, titanium trivia, and any updated hours that you can come say hello to ‘Homo Erectus’ in person. Current visitation schedule: Monday – Thursday, 8:00am – 5:00pm, Friday, June 30, 8:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2, 10:00am – 7:00pm.
Enjoy, and we hope to see you soon!
In July 2018, we flowered our first Titan Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum. Our plant was # 594 to flower in its entire history of cultivation. Since that time, another 141 have flowered worldwide, bringing the total number to 735. If you’d like to see who else has flowered these amazing giants, here is our complete list, along with some great corpse flower trivia.
So, what makes these plants so amazing? The obvious answer is size and fragrance. Amorphophallus titanum is actually an endangered plant in the wilds of Sumatra. The tuber must grow quite large to have enough energy to flower, which is why flowerings are so rare. Also, it’s a bit oversized for most homes and apartments. While they aren’t hard to grow for keen gardeners, they are a bit exacting in growing requirements, so these should only be attempted by very keen gardeners..
If you aren’t familiar with the memorable fragrance of the Titan Arum, check out my favorite video on the subject.
In 2018, we pollinated ‘Peter Grande’, but as often happens, it died due to complications in childbirth. While many folks have tried to use other pollen to cross-breed using Amorphophallus titanum as the pod parent, most attempts were met with failure. A few people were able to set seed with pollen from another A. titanum, but most attempted crosses self-destruct. Reportedly, there is a hybrid of A. titanum x konjac from a 2017 cross, but we are still waiting to see it flower. That’s the same cross we attempted in 2018, with no luck.
The pollen from A. titanum does, however, work well when used on other species. The most famous of which is Amorphophallus ‘John Tan’, a cross of A. variabilis x titanum, which happened to have just flowered for us last week.
This years plant, Amorphophallus titanum ‘Homo Erectus’ is one we inherited with the passing of our dear friend, and amorphophallus guru, Alan Galloway. Alan’s plant is one that we originally grew here from seed.
This year, folks in the Triangle region of NC have a real treat in store as we have our first area Clash of the Titans – two Titan arums flowering; one at the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State, and the other here at JLBG. Based on our calculations, the Raulston plant, named ‘Wolfgang’ should open between June 21 and 22. Our JLBG plant has an expected opening date between June 30 and July 4.
Below is JCRA’s plant on June 12, 2023.
As of June 12, our Titan Corpse Flower is about 10 days behind the JCRA plant.
So far, JLBG owns the regional record for height at 77″, only a shy 1″ over the 2016 flowering of ‘Lupin’ at NC State. Let’s see if the title for the tallest inflorescence is broken in this epic Clash of the Titans.
As we get a bit closer to flowering time, we’ll announce when we will be open for the public to visit and get a whiff.
We’ve long been fascinated by Amorphophallus konjac ‘Shattered Glass’, an unstable variegated cultivar, developed by plantsman Michael Marcotrigiano. Some years, the foliage emerges solid green, other years with a small bit of sectoral variegation, and this year with a fully variegated leaf.
One of our favorite love lilies in our 2003 introduction, Amorphophallus konjac ‘Pinto’. This amazing dwarf never has foliage that exceeds 16″ in height. Unfortunately, the ridiculously slow growth rate has kept us from offering it again since, but perhaps one day. Here is our parent plant in the garden this week. Even if you don’t have a home garden, this form is superb in a container. We had a large crop of dwarfs from seed two years ago, and are looking for more unique new compact selections.
We always love seed set on the love lily, Amorphophallus kiusianus. This species is one of the few amorphophallus which sets seed without a mate. The seed start out a raspberry pink and gradually mature to blue. Seed can be planted once they turn blue, but will not germinate until the following June.
The foliage of Amorphophallus konjac ‘Gordon’s Gold’ is truly superb in the gardens, looking like a forest of small golden palm trees. This is a great discovery from California plantsman, Dave Gordon.
This year, one of our plants had a leaf chimera mutation so that half of the leaf mutated to green, while the other half remained yellow. Most likely, this is a one year occurence.
We are saddened to announce the passing (May 12) of one of our closest friends, plantsman Alan Galloway, age 60. In addition to serving as an adjunct researcher for Juniper Level Botanic Garden, Alan was a close friend and neighbor, living less than two minutes from the garden/nursery.
Alan was a native North Carolinian, who grew up on a farm in Brunswick County, NC, where he developed his love for plants and the natural world. After graduating from UNC-Wilmington with a Computer Science degree, and working for his alma mater for two years, he made the move two hours west to Raleigh. There, Alan worked at NC State University in IT administration and management for 30 years, until retiring in Fall 2018 as Director of IT Services.
Starting in 1999, Alan would save up his vacation time from his day job at NC State, and spend 3-4 weeks each fall, trekking through remote regions of the world where he felt there were still undiscovered aroid species to find, document, and get into cultivation. From 1999 to 2018, he managed 21 botanical expeditions around the world, that included the countries/regions of Cambodia, Crete, Hong Kong, Laos, Mallorca, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Alan routinely risked life and limb on his travels, whether it was getting attacked by a pit viper in Thailand, barely missing a land mine in Cambodia, or tumbling down a mountain and almost losing a leg in Laos.
I had the pleasure of botanizing in Crete, Thailand and Vietnam with Alan, which was an amazing experience, although not for the faint of heart. Alan was a tireless force of nature, but was not one to suffer what he viewed as stupidity or laziness. Although he was very respectful of people from all walks of life, he also regularly burned bridges to those whom he found incapable of meeting his meticulously high standards.
Alan was botanically self-taught, but his obsessive compulsion led him to become one of the worlds’ leading experts on tuberous aroids, specializing in the genera Amorphophallus and Typhonium. To date Alan is credited with the discovery of 30 new plant species (see list below). He was working on describing several more plants from his travels at the time of his death.
Not only did Alan’s botanical expeditions result in new species, but also new horticultural cultivars of known species. Two of the most popular of these were Leucocasia (Colocasia) ‘Thailand Giant’ (with Petra Schmidt), and L. ‘Laosy Giant’.
As a scientist, Alan was both meticulous and obsessive. It wasn’t enough for him to observe a new plant in the field, but he felt he could learn far more growing it in cultivation. He would often work through the night in his home research greenhouse studying plants and making crosses, so he could observe seed set and determine other close relatives.
Alan was overly generous with his knowledge, believing that sharing was necessary for the benefit of both current and future generations of plant scientists. Without his expert understanding of crossbreeding tuberous aroids, we would never have been able to have such incredible success in our own aroid breeding program. Seedlings from his crosses were then grown out and observed, often resulting in a number of special clonal selections.
After his tuberous aroids went dormant each year, all tubers were lifted from their containers, inventoried, and carefully cleaned for photography and further study. Visiting his greenhouse during tuber season was quite extraordinary.
In his amazing Raleigh home garden and greenhouse, Alan maintained the world’s largest species collection of Amorphophallus and Typhonium, including 2 plants named in his honor; Amorphophallus gallowayi and Typhonium gallowayi. Alan’s discoveries are now grown in the finest botanical gardens and aroid research collections around the world.
After returning from what proved to be his last expedition in Fall 2018, he suffered from a loss of energy, which he attributed to picking up a parasite on the trip. It took almost eight months for area doctors to finally diagnose his malaise as terminal late stage bone cancer, during which time Alan had already made plans and purchased tickets for his next expedition. I should add that he made his travel plans after being run over by a texting pickup truck driver, and drug under the truck for 100 feet through the parking lot of the nearby Lowes Home Improvement, which ruined his kidney function.
Alan was certain, albeit too late, that his cancer came from a lifetime addiction to cigarettes, which he was never able to overcome. Over the last 18 months, it’s been difficult for those of us who knew Alan to watch him lose the vitality and unparalleled work ethic that had been his trademark. Despite his loss of physical ability, his trademark independent/stubborn nature would still not allow him to even accept help driving himself to chemo infusions and blood transfusions, which he did until he passed away. Alan was also never one to complain or bemoan his circumstances, only continuing to accomplish as much as possible in the time he had remaining.
After the initial shock of his diagnosis, Alan systematically began distributing massive amounts of his ex-situ conservation aroid collection to gardens and gardeners around the world, since he also believed that sharing is the most effective means of plant conservation.
One of his hybrids that Alan had shared and asked us to keep a special eye on was his cross of Amorphophallus kachinensis x konjac. We talked with him last week and shared that the first flower was almost open, and he was so excited to see his baby for the first time, but by the time it opened early this week, it was too late. So, here is the photo of his new cross, seen for the first time that would have made him so proud.
Alan Galloway new plant species discoveries:
Amorphophallus allenii (2019 – Thailand)
Amorphophallus acruspadix (2012 – Laos)
Amorphophallus barbatus (2015 – Laos)
Amorphophallus bolikhamxayensis (2012 – Laos)
Amorphophallus brevipetiolatus (2012 – Laos)
Amorphophallus claudelii (2016 – Laos)
Amorphophallus crinitus (2019 – Vietnam)
Amorphophallus crispifolius (2012 – Laos)
Amorphophallus croatii (2011 – Laos)
Amorphophallus ferruginosus (2012 – Laos)
Amorphophallus gallowayi (2006 – Laos)
Amorphophallus khammouanensis (2015 – Laos)
Amorphophallus malkmus-husseinii (2019 – Laos)
Amorphophallus myosuroides (2007 – Laos)
Amorphophallus ongsakulii (2006 – Laos)
Amorphophallus prolificus (2006 – Thailand)
Amorphophallus reflexus (2006 – Thailand)
Amorphophallus schmidtiae (2006 – Laos)
Amorphophallus serrulatus (2006 – Thailand)
Amorphophallus umbrinus (2019 – Vietnam)
Amorphophallus villosus (2019 – Vietnam)
Typhonium conchiforme (2005 – Thailand)
Typhonium gallowayi (2001 – Thailand)
Typhonium khonkaenensis (2015 – Thailand)
Typhonium rhizomatosum (2012 – Thailand)
Typhonium sinhabaedyai (2005 – Thailand)
Typhonium supraneeae (2012 – Thailand)
Typhonium tubispathum (2005 – Thailand)
Typhonium viridispathum (2012 – Thailand)
Aspidistra gracilis (2012 – Hong Kong)
Not only has Alan been a good friend for over 30 years, but he has been extremely generous in sharing with us at PDN/JLBG. Over 1500 plant specimens in our collection came directly from Alan. It still seems surreal that we have lost such a vibrant soul that has been so important to expanding our body of knowledge about the botanical/horticultural world. Farewell, my friend…you will be sorely missed.
We will be coordinating with his niece April and her husband Mark to plan a celebration of Alan’s life, which will be held here at PDN/JLBG at a future date, which we will announce when it is set.
Amorphophallus dunnii has long been one of the stars of the winter-hardy love lily clan, but now we’ve gone and really “dun” something even more odd. Amorphophallus dunnii is in flower right now in the garden with it’s typical 1′ tall peculiar, but fragrantless flower spike. This year for the first time, our collection of Amorphophallus dunnii from Lai Chau in North Vietnam flowered, and we were thrilled to measure it at just over 3′ tall. The super-sized petiole and leaf last summer gave us a hint of what was to come. Evidently plants from this region in North Vietnam are dramatically taller than those of the same species from mainland China. We are now working to vegetatively propagate this special form so that we can share it in the future.
If you haven’t heard, there is an Amorphophallus titanum in bloom at the greenhouse conservatory on NC State’s campus. The conservatory also doubles as a classroom, so it isn’t be available for public viewing, but you can watch it bloom live on this page.
The flower of the giant titan arum is one of the largest flowers in the plant kingdom, and has a smell reminiscent of rotting flesh, hence the common name of corpse flower.
Here is a picture of PDN’s Amorphophallus titanum in the greenhouse, which is still a couple of years from flowering. We do have seedlings that were potted up last week and should be ready for shipment in 4-5 weeks (there is a picture of the seedlings below).
Not only is the titan arum impressive for it’s flower and mere size, but the patterning on the stem is absolutely amazing with dense speckling of lime and black-green near the base, and larger blotching as you move up the stem.
Visitors to our Summer Open Nursery and Garden get to see the amorophophallus at their peak.
The amorphophallus that always draws the most attention in summer is Amorphophallus kiusianus and its beautiful seed heads which first turn a mauvy pink, then age to cobalt blue.