Hutson Greenhouse Welcomes Holiday Gift

Out with the poinsettias and in with the Amorphophallus.

That’s the word from the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse at Southeast Missouri State University. With the holidays behind it and after a weeklong blast of subarctic winter temperatures in southeast Missouri, the greenhouse welcomed this slice of the tropics – a gift from Ohio University — with open arms.

Hutson Greenhouse Manager Melissa LaPlant enthusiastically announced the donation of 35 pounds of Amorphophallus bulbs to Southeast

This Amorphophallus bulbifer bulb will eventually produce this pink flower.

“Unwrapping all those bulbs was the best feeling ever,” LaPlant said.  “The gift came with no information besides where it was from. I believe it was the help from a former student that made a connection at Ohio University, but that has not been proven. The former student knows that I love Amorphophallus and already had five species from my own collection.”

The gift added five more species of Amorphophallus to Southeast’s collection, bringing Southeast’s assortment to 10 species. The Amorphophallus is planted in 21 pots in house #3 at the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse. Some of the donated bulbs are large, while others are small, allowing multiple bulbs to be planted in one pot.

Amorphophallus grows to be large, tall, tuberous plants. It often is found in tropical and subtropical areas and oceanic islands, and is native to Asia, Africa and Australia. Because of its eventual height, Amorphophallus must be grown in large greenhouses. Only about a dozen or so botanic gardens and universities grow Amorphophallus across the country, making them very uncommon.

“Amorphophallus is a rare genus of plant not often seen,” LaPlant said. “We have 10 species of Amorphophallus, making Southeast Missouri State University one of the largest collections in Missouri.”

Right now all, but one Amorphophallus species at the Hutson Greenhouse, is in dormancy.

One of the donated bulbs, Amorphophallus konjac, is just under 12 pounds and probably mature enough to bloom soon. Most of the rest of the bulbs could take years to mature enough to bloom, she said.

This Amorphophallus konjac bulb weighed 12 pounds and will produce this unusual flower.

“Amorphophallus are like cats. They do whatever they want to do when they want to do it, so there is no way to tell when they will come out of dormancy,” LaPlant said. “I do have a heat mat under them to try to speed up the process. It could take years to flower.”

The most famous Amorphophallus is the Amorphophallus titanum, otherwise known as Corpse Flower. It is out of dormancy, awake and 21 inches tall, testimony to its designation as the tallest flower in the world.

“The flower looks very unworldly, like something off of Star Trek,” LaPlant said.

When it flowers, it produces a rotting flesh smell, hence the name, to attract insects for pollination.

LaPlant says she is hopeful the other species will awake soon.

For more information on Amorphophallus at Southeast, contact the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse at (573) 651-2316.