Spring is in the air, but Ohio State University's greenhouse probably smells more like a rotting carcass. Researchers could not be more delighted. Called the "corpse flower" by those who know it best, the rare titan arum, which might have bloomed as soon as last night, earned its foul moniker for obvious reasons.
Spring is in the air, but Ohio State University’s greenhouse probably smells more like a rotting carcass.
Researchers could not be more delighted.
Called the “corpse flower” by those who know it best, the rare titan arum, which might have bloomed as soon as last night, earned its foul moniker for obvious reasons.
“It smells like road kill, maybe a little bit of sauerkraut, dead fish — kind of all mixed together,” said Joan Leonard, the greenhouse coordinator.
The flower’s stench attracts pollinators such as flesh flies and carrion beetles that are drawn to decaying flesh.
And the flower has precious little time to do so.
“It can bloom maybe two or three times,” Leonard said. “The soonest it can bloom after it has bloomed once is maybe two to five years after, and that’s under optimal conditions. Or it may never bloom again.”
Woody, the nickname for the towering titan arum on the cusp of blossoming, bloomed just two years ago. Woody’s first bloom attracted more than 6,000 visitors.
Last year, Jesse, another corpse flower at the greenhouse, blossomed and attracted another horde.
Visiting hours will be posted as soon as Woody begins to bloom, said Sandi Rutkowski, an OSU spokeswoman. It hadn’t as of last night. Updates are on the greenhouse’s website, http://bioscigreenhouse.osu.edu/titan-arum.
In its native Sumatra, female and male corpse flowers bloom within days of each other, but the Ohio specimens must be pollinated by hand in order to obtain new titan arum seeds.
Many of the rare flowers have been destroyed by commercial agriculture and rainforest logging. The OSU greenhouse aims to stimulate the declining population by artificially nurturing them.
Ohio’s climate is a far cry from Indonesia’s, but the greenhouse mimics a tropical environment, and Woody receives plenty of sun and fertilizer.
“There have been less than maybe 175 blooms in the entire world since (the flower was) discovered in the late 1800s,” she said. “The rare occasion that it does bloom just attracts in anybody who’s interested in the crazy world of science.”
That OSU will have had blooms three years in a row is a “miracle,” Rutkowski said. “We are incredibly fortunate,” she said. “It takes someone who knows what they’re doing, and you have to have the proper facility.”
Woody has been growing by 4-5 inches a day since sprouting, Leonard said. Yesterday, the plant exceeded 70 inches tall. When the flower will blossom is anybody’s guess.
“It’s kind of like expecting a baby,” Leonard said yesterday. “It could be any day now.”