The Sumatran Flower Of Death: 500 Rupiah (Indonesia, 1979)-Article

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

This colorful Indonesian banknote represents the 1st denomination of the Series 4 Rupiah (1982). The Series 4 New Rupiah was first issued on 29 June 1979. Notably the series was issued out of order, from 1979-1982. It was gradually replaced by the Series 5 New Rupiah, beginning on 27 December 1985. The Series 5 was finally withdrawn from circulation, on 1 May 1992.

The Series 5 was notable for re-introducing the 100 (New) Rupiah note. A denomination which was entirely absent from previous Series 4. Instead the Series 3 100 Rupiah note (issued in 1977) remained in circulation, until the introduction of the Series 5. The 100 Rupiah denomination as a whole, was discontinued on 30 November 2006.


The observe features an illustration of a rare Titan Arum. An enormous species of corpse flower, native to Sumatra. The flower is backed by a forest and Sumatran man for scale. To lower right is the species scientific name "AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM". At the observe's center is a colorful design, overprinted by "LIMA RATUS RUPIAH" (Fifty Rupiah) and "1988 DIREKSI". Signifying the note's value and print date. Opposite of the stag is a large watermark area.

At the note's header is the note's issuing body, "BANK INDONESIA". Below the issue date are a pair of signatures, representing the bank "GUBERNUR" (Governor) and "DIREKTUR" (Director). This legitimizing the the note, as being officially notarized. To the lower right is the text "Perum Percetakan Uang Ri Imp.", the note's printer. This printer is most commonly known by the name Perum Peruri.

Various additional guilloché patterns and other embellishments are featured throughout the observe. Each observe corner features a different design. The upper left features and extension of the header art. While the lower right features a number "500", backed by guilloché engraving. While the left "500" is plain, both represent the note's 500 Rupiah value. To the upper right is an image of Garuda, the National Emblem of Indonesia


The reverse depicts the Medan branch building, of the Bank of Indonesia. Most major cities within Indonesia host a their own banking branch. The Medan branch is responsible for the region of North Sumatra. Below is a legal warning to potential counterfeiters and money launders. Threating imprisonment to offenders.

Just as the observe, the reverse is colorful with various patterns. If one looks closely they will notice small unprinted section within the pattern. This colorful pattern is a form of registration element/light puzzle. When backlit the pattern is completed, low quality forgeries will often lack this feature. Or at minimum will feature misaligned elements.

The reverse features twin serial numbers, "HCK 152528". Located to the left and upper-right of the bank building. As the serial number is overprinted, it act as a minor anti-counterfeiter countermeasure. Amateur counterfeiters will often create single print copies, rather then layered printing. In addition to relying on a single master copy, leading to repeat serial numbers. As a final measure the serial numbers are printed in ultraviolet sensitive ink.

Each corner features a different design. The lower-left corner lists of the note's "500" rupiah value, backed by a guilloché engraving. While the "500" on the upper right is plain, with no additional embellishments. The upper left features a lime green "starburst" guilloché pattern. While the lower right is simple part of the multi color underprint, with an overlapping design.

The Titan Arum

The Titan Arum is native only to the limestone hills of Western Sumatra (Indonesia), growing within opening in the rainforest. The species was first documented by western science, in 1878, by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari (1843-1920). The unusual Arum blooms from a 3 m (10 ft) tall stalk, known as an inflorescence. Strangely the deep red petals (known as the spathe), that surrounds the inflorescence are but "pseudo-petals". As the inflorescence stalk contains many small flowers within.

Another notable feature of this species, is their unusual smell. This unpleasant odor is meant to resemble rotting meat. Attracting unknowing pollinators, such as flies and carrion beetles who seek out the flower. Mistaking it as a place to lay their eggs, rather than a decaying caracaras. This odor is only released during the blooming phase, which occurs after 5-10 years of growth.

The blooming phase is short, although has been intensely studied by botanist. Thanks in part, due to interest in the species' unusual nature. Which lead to relatively numerous examples to be grown internationally, by private and public botanic gardens. Who partially fund their scientific studies through public viewings of the Titan Arum's various life phases, particularly during blooming.

The blooming of the Titan Arum is a scientific wonder. When reaching maturity, the fleshy spathe unsheathes from the spadix, exposing its interior to the outside world. This is quickly followed by spathe heating to 37 °C (98.6 °F). By quickly burning starch reserves, within its large corm (bulb-like root). A somewhat alien feature is present other species, usually within the Arum family of plants.

This heating both activates the odor, while emulating the temperature of sun beaten meat. This is aided by the deep red spathe, with its various folds that emulate a piece of meat. Additionally the spadix will rhythmically release its infamous odor, to attract pollinators.

Fortunately for botanist, this odor is released in the mid evening. Becoming more intense by late evening and fading away at morning. This selective release is meant to coincide when the pollinators are most active. As they must move pollen from separate "male" to female" flowers. These separate sections occur as circular bands, at the base of the exposed spadix.

The receptive period the "female" flowers are often only receptive for 12 hours. After which the spathe wilts, ending the receptive period. Although there has been instances which the spathe remaining intact for 24-48 hours. Thus greatly prolonging the receptive period.

The "male" and "female" sections each have a district appearance and function. The "male" flowers are yellowish-white and contain the pollen. While "female" flowers are stalks, usually dark purple, with light purple bases and blub-like tipped carpels. The pollen must land on the tips of the carpels for fruiting to occur. The fruit are usually reddish-orange, with varying hues between specimens.

It was previously thought that Titan Arum were incapable of self-pollination. Although this has since been disproven, as of 1992. After botanist from the University of Bonn (Germany) successful hand pollinated a specimen. Thus supporting self-pollination can occasionally occur in nature. The specimen was pollinated from the "ground-up",

The fruits produced from the 1992 experiment created several hundred seeds. Which used to create seedlings, that where distributed globally. Thus aiding other botanical research programs, interested in Arum propagation. Self-pollination has also been documented without human aid.

In 2011, a specimen known as "Perry the Corpse Flower", spontaneously self-pollinated in Gustavus Adolphus College (Minnesota, USA), to the surprise of the department staff. Just as the 1992 Bonn specimen, the seeds produced were viable. Producing dozens of seedlings, which were further distributed.

Another notable feature identified by botanist is repeat blooming. After blooming the Titan Arum will enter a "leaf" phase. In which, the spadix take on tree-like appearance, with 3 pseudo-branches. While the petal-like spadix wilts away, leaving only the tree-like spadix. This pseudo-tree is in fact a massive leaf (with leaflets), that will wither and collapse.

This is known as the dormant phase, in which only the underground corm remains. In this phase the Arum can be safely transported and replanted. Initially it was theorized Titan Arum were single blooming species, dying after their first bloom. This theory has long since been disproven and was partially based on cultivation difficulties faced by early botanist.

The species growth is extremely selective, based on narrow conditions. To the extent they face difficulty even within there native environment. Due to these factors wild Titan Arum will naturally not grow outside their limited range, in Western Sumatra. First bloom and rebloom life cycle, for Titan Arum is roughly 7-10 years long.

This is in stark contrast to some botanist grown specimens. Which are capable of repeatedly reblooming every 1-2 years. Mostly due to decades of research, documenting the narrow conditions which Titan Arum grow and thrive. Which has reached the extent Titan Arum can now be grown outside of lab conditions.

For example in 2011, the students of Roseville High School (Roseville, California) successfully grew a Titan Arum. Making it the first example to be cultivated by non-university age students. In addition, to being one of the few Titan Arum, to be grown by amateur gardeners.

Additional Notes

  • This note dimensions are 140 x 68 mm or 5.51 x 2.67 in, smaller than a US Dollar.

  • The first Arum was grown in 1889, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (London, England).

  • The first Arum bloom was recorded in 1937, at the New York Botanical Garden (USA).

  • The Botanical Gardens of Bonn (Germany) has cultivated Titan Arum since 1932.

  • The University of Bonn supplies botanical researchers, for the Botanical Gardens of Bonn.

  • Botanist Wilhelm Barthlott (1946-20xx) greatly expanded interest in Titan Arum research, while working at the Botanical Gardens of Bonn.

  • Arum corms sprout into large leaf (occasionally a pair), which sheaths the inflorescence.

  • Occasionally corms can create multiple blooms, each forming a separate flower.

  • The Botanical Gardens of Bonn first recorded a rare triple bloom, in 2006.

  • The largest recorded corm was documented at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (UK), weighing 153.9 kg (339 lb).

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