Thursday, Jun 21, 2018

Fog/Mist, 71 °F

Corpse flower

The plant has been nicknamed the "corpse flower" because of its pungent aroma.

Photographer: Kate Sierzputowski

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Ohio University’s rare wintry bloom

Despite Athens' icy exterior on the evening of Jan. 20, Ohio University's greenhouse was a balmy oasis to the Amorphophallus titanum's first bloom since 2010.

Nicknamed the "corpse flower" because of its distinct smell, the rare breed opens with a pungent punch to attract carrion- eating beetles and flies that flock to its road kill-like stench.

"They don't make the ideal houseplant," joked Harold Blazier, greenhouse manager. "They definitely are a hard plant for a person to handle."

First discovered in Sumatra, Indonesia by Italian botanist and explorer Odoardo Beccari, the titanum and has since been a turned into a novelty for its rarity across the globe.

The Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum, can go for years without flowering, and when the bloom finally occurs it is less than satisfying. The flowering lifespan can be as short as one to two days.

"It is just not an everyday flower," explained Blazier. "Its opening is such a timed thing that when it happens we will know only 4 or 5 hours in advance."

When the flower is about to bloom it grows at an alarming rate. An average of 1-4 inches can be accumulated in just one day, and Blazier makes sure to chart each increase.

The most recent bloom didn't match up to last year's girth, but still managed to grow to a size of 55 inches tall and 30 inches wide.  

"It was smaller than I wanted it to be, but I think it has something to do with it being so cold the week before," explained Blazier. "I was hoping for at least a foot taller."

Although this size can still be viewed as extremely large, the height is just one third of the size of titan arums in the wild, which can reach a height of almost 15 feet.

Titan arums that bloom in captivity create a huge buzz, attracting interested patrons like the beetles and flies that pollinate the gargantuan feat of flora.

The flowers that are housed pick-up interesting names including, Mr. Stinky and Audrey III. Blazier however, has decided to not conform to the horticultural trend.

"I don't name my cars, and I don't name my plants. That doesn't appeal to me. I respect it as a plant," he said.  

This is the greenhouse's second bloom from the seed they received from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2004. Blazier suspects another bloom may take a couple of years, forcing OHIO to wait to smell the corpse flower's next stench.