Longwood Gardens has been on high alert for a week with extended hours and a live camera streaming a giant corpse flower.
While the flower hasn’t bloomed yet, the rare plant has been growing. One night, it grew 4.5 inches.
When the titan arum opens, it will stink up the conservatory. The smell’s been described as rotting meat, dead fish, sewage or mud. The smell might be off-putting to people but it attracts pollinators that feed on dead animals.
Usually the blooms last only 24 to 48 hours. Longwood extended hours last week to allow more people to see the plant. Monday, July 13, hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Longwood Gardens shared this series of photos showing the life cycle of the plant known as Sprout on social media.
The plant was started from seed in 2008 at UC Berkley and bloomed at Chicago Botanic Garden in 2016. The garden gave the plant to Longwood Gardens in 2018. Sharing plants helps build genetic diversity in plant collections, wrote Andrew Bunting, who used to be the gardens's director of plant collections and now is with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
When the plant is dormant, its underground corm, similar to a large tuber, waits to begin a new cycle.
This corm sprouts a huge leaf most years. The leaf looks like a tree, but is one leaf with leaflets at the top. In 2018, Sprout grew this 10-foot-tall leaf.
You may have seen Sprout in Longwood Garden's tropical terrace, where it was on display in tree form for about a year. During that time, the leaf stalk gathers and stores carbohydrates in the corm to have enough energy to bloom.
After 12-18 months of storing energy, the leaf withers and the plant becomes dormant. In October 2019, Sprout was moved to a grow house where it could rest.
The leaf was removed and the corm wintered in the greenhouse in temperatures of 65-70 degrees. In March, Sprout was repotted.
Sprout was dormant for about a year. Its growing tip emerged in May.
When the plant went on display on May 28, it was just a few inches tall. It's grown to six feet tall by Friday, the garden shared on social media.
The plant flowers as the the spadix (the center spike) emerges through the bracts (outer leaves).
The flower doesn't last long, usually 24-48 hours. This is the last titan arum to bloom at Longwood Gardens, in 1961.
One or two days might sound short but the flower only needs to be around long enough to attract pollinators.
"The plant’s lifecycle continues as the pollen on the small flowers inside the spathe ripen. In the wild, birds will eat its berries and disperse the seeds throughout the Sumatran rainforest. And the dormancy cycle starts all over again. Ah, the circle of life!" Longwood Gardens says.
This plant is native of the Sumatra island in Indonesia. The first in the western hemisphere bloomed at the New York Botanical Garden in 1937. Since then the rare and short-lived flowers have attracted crowds to botanical gardens in New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Have you seen a corpse flower in bloom? Share your thoughts in the comments.