Corpse Plant Design and Pollination

Corpse Plant Design and Pollination
Corpse Plant in Bloom at the University of Bonn Botanical Garden

The design of plants is so complex and precise that it speaks volumes about the design built into all of life. For example, on November 3, 2021, the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas had a public showing of the bloom of the Amorphophallus titanum plant, which attracted more than 5,000 people. This strange plant is called the corpse plant.

Amorphophallus titanum is an endangered plant endemic to Sumatra. People call it the corpse plant because the blossom smells like a rotting corpse. The plant requires growth for five to ten years before blooming for the first time. After that, it may bloom once every two to ten years. The bloom lasts for 24 to 48 hours in which it sends out the odor to attract carrion beetles and flesh flies as pollinators.

The flower, or spathe, of the corpse plant does more than just send out a smell to attract pollinators. The inside is a deep red color with furrows that give it the appearance of raw meat. Also, when blooming, it generates heat that brings it to human body temperature. As a result, the carrion beetles and flesh flies, which are programmed to be attracted to meat, find it irresistible.

Many insects and animals have a symbiotic relationship with certain plants. Sometimes a plant attracts an insect or animal for food or shelter, and the insect or animal provides pollination for the plant. Analysis of the powerful odor shows it involves at least seven chemicals that create foul smells we are familiar with, from rotting fish to feces. It is no accident that this plant has all of the right chemicals and physical features to attract the available pollinators in its native habitat.

The needs of every plant and animal are carefully provided for their survival. The evidence is apparent as Romans 1:20 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The corpse plant, carrion beetles, and flesh flies demonstrate the truth of that statement.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: AP Release 11/3/21.

You can watch a time-lapse video of a corpse plant blooming at UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley HERE.