W. Fitch’s drawing of Amorphophallus konjac, also known as devil’s tongue and voodoo lily, clearly details some properties of this species. For example, two versions of the entire plant are drawn. In the centre, Fitch shows a compound leaf growing from an unearthed tuber. On the left, Fitch shows the plant as it might look while growing in the ground and flowering. Fitch was obliged to show the plant at leafing stage and inflorescence stage separately since both do not occur at once; the impressive spathe and spadix emerge in late winter, and the single leaf will not emerge until well after the inflorescence has died back. Also, the artist has accurately depicted the roots coming from the top of the tuber–providing needed support for the top-heavy inflorescence–and has included a small tuber emerging from the larger one. Over the growing season, a new, larger tuber is formed, which replaces the older tuber. As the tubers grow larger, so do the leaves and inflorescences. A mature voodoo lily can be nearly two metres high, and the spathe alone can measure about one metre, with the spadix growing even longer.
One thing that cannot be shown in a botanical drawing or photograph is the scent. The voodoo lily emits the scent of decaying flesh in an attempt to attract its natural pollinators, carrion flies (Calliphoridae spp.). While researching this species, I came across many gardening posts discussing just how terribly, awfully, horribly bad the smell of Amorphophallus konjac is. Most, but not all, thought it was worth growing anyway. If you would like to try growing this unusual species, the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program has this information sheet on Amorphophallus konjac growth and care.
Despite the terrible smell of its inflorescence, the corm of the voodoo lily is used to make a popular food in Japan known as konnyaku (yam cake). The corms, which can reac6h the size of a large grapefruit, are cultivated and made into flour, jelly, or a vegan version of gelatin. Konnyaku can also be made into a type of noodle called shirataki. I have not tasted konnyaku, but am tempted to try out this recipe.