why does the corpse flower only flower once in its lifetime?


The corpse plant needs energy to flower. This energy is stored in its corm, a swollen stem base whose weight is around 100kg. When it is not flowering, a leaf grows out of the corm which further branches into leaflets. Each year, this leaf dies and a new one grows in its place. So, many years go by and the plant keeps investing its energy in the growth of this leaf. After many years, when it finally gathers sufficient energy, it flowers. 

So, a corpse flower does not flower annually. Rather it blooms when it has enough energy to do so. 

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