Boomer bloomers: the slowest flowering plants in the world

slow flowering plants

For anthophiles of the world, there’s no greater joy on earth than what a flower can bloom unto them. And indeed, in all their pretty and dainty allure, flowers are a happy vision. Think then of the painstaking period of having to wait for that season of the year when your favorite flower finally comes to life in all its floral exuberance. While for you the summer a few months away or even the spring a few days ahead is too long a wait, there exist flowers around the world that takes years and even decades to bloom. Here are some such slow flowering plants around the world that can put your patience- or even your lifespan- to some serious test-

Queen of Andes (Andean queen)

Indeed the Queen of the Andes in the grandeur of its bloom, this very unique flower stems from a plant that has to be one of the slowest blooming in the entire world. Scientifically known as the Puya raimondii, this majestic flower rears its prominent head once in some 80 years. But when it indeed does come to full bloom after what is even a painstakingly long span even by ‘human standards’, it towers above them all.

An endangered species that, as the name suggests, is native to the Andes, the in- bloom Andean queen is however a profusely spikey spectacle. Soaring to a massive 12 meters in height in the countries of Peru and Bolivia where it stands, the seed bearing spike of the plant bears thousands of white, green and purple flowers. Interestingly, the bloom of the plant is also the forebearer of its death. Because with a life span of some about 100 years, the plant dies off once the millions of its seeds borne by the spike drop off. A once in a lifetime flowering plant, the Andean Queen thrives in harsh conditions at heights as elevated as 3000- 4800 meters and which perhaps explains its slow flower power.

Madagascar palm

Madagascar palm
Source: The Conversation

Sorting out first things first, the Madagascar Palm isn’t a palm at all! And that isn’t even the weirdest thing about this plant breed that also very uniquely flowers in about 100 years after which it dies off. Remarkably this breed of plant is a very recent phenomenon, at least in the discovery, as it came in larger world view only in 2008!

Said to be a self destructing tree because it dies soon after it bears the flowers, the Madagascar palm also rears surprisingly similar properties to the Asian palms- even when it occurs on the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar some 6000 kilometers away and is not even a ‘proper’ palm by genetic considerations.

However it isn’t just in the phenomena that the plant happens to be a spectacular discovery. Its once in a century blooming experience is just as spectacular- after decades and decades of existence in silent obscurity, the tree springs up a large shoot that starts to spread and finally ends up covering the tree in innumerable pretty, tiny white flowers. For a plant this spectacular to be “quietly living and dramatically dying in Madagascar for 80 million years” is indeed a sorrow- one that is further compounded by its minuscule existence of just about a 100 of its folks.

Talipot palm

talipot palm

Native to some parts of India and Sri Lanka, the largest flowering inflorescence plant of the world also gains prominence as being among of the world’s slowest flowering ones. Known scientifically as the Corypha umbraculifera, the palm lives well and high for some 60 years before it proceeds to bearing fruits and flowers, only to die shortly thereafter. Even in the fruiting, the wait is considerable since it takes up almost a year to mature. One of the largest palms with heights going up to as sky rise as 25 meters, the talipot palm however exhibits serious inhibitions when it comes to flowering.

Melocanna baccifera

In the north eastern region of India blooms a particular bamboo species every 45- 50 years that again occupies prominence as much for its other attributes as it does for its rather long flowering period. One of the fastest growing plants on the planet, bamboos however tend to lag ridiculously when it comes to blooming. The flowering phenomenon is a very rare occurrence- and also a destructive one. The plant blooms only one time after which it dies, wiping out also along with it entire plantations.

Even disturbingly haunting is how the rare flowering phenomenon seeks to in fact bring upon despair for the people. Because the sudden spurt in the flowering and the fruiting attracts a large number of rodents that prove to be a headache for the locals. Not just the bamboo fruits, the hordes of rodents also gnaw away at the crops while also being the harbinger of diseases. The severity of such occurrence rattles up so much the existence of the people that they refer to what should have been a phenomenon eagerly anticipated owing to the timespan, as the Mautam- a term that translates as mourning.

Melocanna baccifera
Source: Flickr

There however rests an irony even in that. In being potent cures against low blood pressure, the bamboo fruits are coveted, yet they need to be rued is what is obviously a perplexion of sorts for those fortunate- or unfortunate enough to witness the mighty phenomenon.

Corpse flower

For a plant as appallingly known as the Corpse flower, there would not be much to fancy about this breed, or so we seem to think. Native to the region of Sumatra, this plant, scientifically known as the Amorphophallus titanum, exhibits one of the world’s largest and rarest flowering structures and is a flowering plant with also the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. Not just that, the very aptly named plant happens also to be one of the many smelly plants that inhabit the earth.

Blooming once in every decade- seven years to be precise- or even once in a couple of decades, the corpse flower is a slow blooming plant and also one that blooms rather shortly. To good measure though perhaps- once in bloom the plant emits a very strong odour like that of rotten meat, more accurately like that of a decaying corpse, to attract pollinators. Even the blooming pattern happens to be sporadic after the first bout, from flowering consecutively to again developing a pattern that is irregular, different plants take different behavioural routes thereafter. Large and heavy, the corpse flower seems to be doing all things on a gigantic and noticeable scale. A single leaf can be as large as a small tree with some 20 feet of height while a single corm can weigh as much as 50- 100 kgs.

Kurinji plant 

Native to the biodiversically significant shola forests of the Western Ghats in the southern region of India, the Kurinji plants or neelakurinjis are shrubs that flower once every twelve years generally, but might sometimes exhibit inhibited growth to be even slower blooming. At considerable altitudes that range between 1300 to 2400 meters, kurinjis demonstrate the masting phenomenon of seeding thereby blooming after long intervals all together so that the resultant spectacle is one encompassing pretty wonder.

In their full purple- blue bloom the nilkurinjis encompass the entire vista of the mountains much like a pretty carpet in so widespread an expanse that they have rendered the name Nilgiri unto the slopes! In fact, the relevance of the periodic blooming of the flowers goes also beyond the vision and take on much significance even socially. For the tribal people of Paliyan of Tamil Nadu, it is indeed the blooming of the flowers that works as mechanism for calculating their age. Either way, witnessing the blooming neelgiris needs to be an experience you should witness at least once in your lifetime, whether it be in the Chikmagalur region of Karnataka or in Munnar of Kerala.

Sheep-Eating Plant 

A protocarnivorous plant mostly found in the Andes ranges of South America, the sheep eating plant is another slow flowering breed that also claims fame for its other somewhat unique characteristics. Whether it be the conditioned diet mechanism of the plant or characteristic of its ergonomics, the scientifically named Puya chilensis can take about 15 to 30 years to bloom. Even the flowers borne are seriously eye catching as are the prickly spires- massive three meter maces bear the green or yellow flowers that however remain in blossom for just about a week even after all those years of wait.