By Charina Delgado Puentevella
Editor’s Note: Charina Delgado Puentevella calls herself an educator, a runner, biker, Rotarian, Zontian, translator, nature lover, and mountain climber.
On my fifth hike to Igcabugao, a mountain barangay in the town of Igbaras, province of Iloilo, I was lucky to have my first sighting of Amorphophallus yaoi, locally known as uroy. Halfway along the trail towards Butuan falls, we were welcomed by a blooming Amorphophallus yaoi. Our trusted trek guide, Candido “Tay Morot” Esquilarga told us that sighting the said flower is extremely rare even for a local like him.
Callado (2020) described the Amorphophallus yaoi that he observed in Dingle, Iloilo on May 27, 2014 as having a globose tuber with raised areas and no offset development. The petiole is 80-100 cm long, largely smooth with slight or strong verruculation near the base. The lamina is 70-80 cm in diameter, with winged rachises above the basal branches. The inflorescence is solitary, held at ground level or slightly above. The spathe is broady oval and campanulate, 25-30 cm long and 22-28 cm in diameter, with a convolute base. Inside, it is purple to dull maroon with slightly separated warts, while the outside is pale green with scattered whitish rounded spots and black dots. The spadix is sessile, 40 cm long, with a longer length than the spathe. The female zone is cylindrical to subcylindric, 4.5 cm long and 3 cm in diameter, with slightly distant flowers. The male zone is cylindrical to subcylindric, 5.5 cm long and 2-3 cm in diameter, with congested flowers. The appendix is narrowly conical to slightly fusiform-conical, 30 cm long and 1.5-3 cm in diameter, tapering gradually to the top. The plant produces berries that are generally ovate, 1-3 seeded, approximately 1.5 cm long and 1 cm in diameter, with dull reddish-orange color. The seeds are approximately 8 mm long and 2-3 in diameter.
Along the hilly and shaded part of the trail towards Butuan falls, there were three of them in different sizes and stages of blooming.
According to the United States Botanic Garden (2020):
This corpse flower (Amorphophallus yaoi) is a newly described species collected by the U.S. Botanic Garden and collaborators in the Philippines in 2017. This new species A. yaoi is much smaller than the large, famous A. titanum that they have displayed several times. A. yaoi blooms every year, similar to many other species in the genus. Additionally, the new species has a fainter stinky odor than its larger relative.
This corpse flower is a member of the aroid — or arum — family, which includes many common house plants like the peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.). This family of flowering plants is known for having a distinctive spike: a single fleshy stem covered with small flowers. This spike, or spadix, is bracketed by a leaf-like structure called a spathe. In some aroids, the spadix generates heat that spreads the plant’s odor and attracts insects for pollination. You can see the female (lowest) and male (above [the unopened male flowers look like small yellow seeds/corn]) flowers at the base of the spadix in these photos.
According to Dr. Susan Pell (2020):
The spathe protects the flowers and it also facilitates pollination. This plant heats up and volatilizes its sulfur compound and gives off an aroma similar to a rotting corpse. This plant is native to the Philippines and was found in its mountain tropical forests. Recently discovered in 2020 as a new species to science and was given its scientific name but locals have known this plant for hundreds or thousands of years.
By far, Igcabugao is home to two corpse flowers, the rare rafflesia speciosa and the extremely rare amorphophallus yaoi.
The sightings of these two precious floral gems and the cold waterfalls are our reward for trudging the mountains of Igbaras.
We’re ecstatic about our first sighting of the Amorphophallus yaoi and second sighting of the Rafflesia speciosa. This week’s hiking, waterfalls dipping, forest bathing, earthing, and grounding is crowned with these extremely rare floral gems!
Read about Rafflesia speciosa sighting: Seeing the forest come alive
Hetterscheid, W.L.A, Medecilo, M.P., Callado, J.R.C., & Galloway, A. (2020, January 27). New species of Amorphophallus (Araceae) in the Philippines and an updated key. Blumea: Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants, 65(1), 1–9. doi:10.3767/blumea.2020.65.01.01
U.S. Botanic Garden. (2020, August 4). This corpse flower (Amorphophallus yaoi), is a newly described species collected by the U.S. Botanic Garden and collaborators in the [Image attached] [Status update]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/usbotanicgarden/posts/this-corpse-flower-amorphophallus-yaoi-is-a-newly-described-species-collected-by/2784508885113523/
Pell, S. (2020, August 22). Morphology of a new corpse flower Amorphophallus yaoi [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD6rT-8Oaag&t=8s