Amorphophallus rivieri

This species has an interesting inflorescence as well as leaves and is suitable chiefly for those who like something unusual.

Only Amorphophallus titanium is found in general cultivation, and in botanical gardens and specialized collections only a few of the other approximately 80 species may be found. The genus is distributed chiefly in the tropical regions of the Old World, its range extending across the islands to Australia. It is a pity that it is not grown in wider assortment for it includes species that are quite small, barely 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) high, as well as one that is a veritable giant (A. titanum from Sumatra grows to a height of 5 m [16 ft] and the inflorescence measures up to 1 m [3 ft] in diameter).

A. rivieri (syn. Hydrosme rivieri) is a native of Vietnam, where it grows in the mountains at elevations of approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft) at the edge of dense misty forests. The tuber is located at a shallow depth, for example a specimen about 1.5 m (5 ft) high growing in the soft, thick layer of humus at the forest edge may have a tuber the size of a small child’s head, located at a depth of only 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in).

In south-east Asia, however, some species are grown in fields. The tubers of A. conjaku, for example, are a popular food, chiefly in Japan. The tuber, which must be cooked thoroughly (otherwise it is poisonous), contains a gelatinous greyish-white substance that Europeans do not find particularly tasty.

After the winter rest period the tuber sends up a single leaf stalk up to 1.5 m (5 ft) high with white markings. The leaf blade, placed at right angles to the stalk, is trifoliate, and the separate sections are divided still further. Larger tubers produce ‘flowers’ in late winter, often before they are put in the ground. The spathe is about 30 cm (1 ft) long and coloured dark purple, the spadix is about the same length and coloured blackish violet. The inflorescence have a strong fetid odour, like that of tainted meat.

The tubers, which are lifted for the winter, should be kept dry and in a warm place during the dormant period. The compost should be a nourishing one; a mixture of peat, loam and sand is suitable, or John Innes potting compost. Sometimes cultivation outdoors in open ground is recommended, but this generally leads to weakening of the plant.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Amorphophallus rivieri

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