White Paper

White Paper: The Corpse Flower: A Thermographer's Perspective

Source: FLIR Systems, Inc - Research & Science

By Steve Mirowski and Steven Kramer, Advantage Infrared

The Amorphophallus Titanum, Titan Arum (the Corpse Flower) is a rare specimen, with limited observational opportunities. The fact that it experiences metabolic heat generation makes it an enticing subject for a thermographer. The Corpse Flower is a unique life form with an air of mystery and questions remain regarding its specific thermal functions and their purpose. The approach this paper takes is strictly from a thermographer's perspective, utilizing limited interdisciplinary knowledge of botany and entomology. The results of our investigation confirm that the plant generates heat both at the tip of the spadix and inside at the base where the spathe and spadix intersect. The latter indicates further confirmation of the common hypothesis that the plant intentionally smells like a rotting flesh in order to attract bugs for pollination. However, the former does not appear to be consistent with this hypothesis. The tip of the spadix is not the source of the pollen and it would be surprising if it aided in propagating the stench any further. However, it may indicate that some of the plant’s pollinating insects actually are able to sense in the infrared spectrum. As can be seen in the thermal images, the tip of the spadix could act like a visual beacon for locating the source of what the insect smells. This type of investigation can lead to a better understanding of ecological interconnectivity, create increased opportunities for this kind of scientific investigation, and develop a better understanding of our thermal world.

FLIR Systems, Inc - Research & Science