Corpse Flower Viewing is Botanical Craziness

Corpse FlowerI’ve done a lot of kooky things in my day, but waiting in a long line of other early-rising plant nerds to get a glimpse (and whiff) of a flower could top the list.

The alert went out last night on the 10 o’clock news: The Corpse Flower at the Denver Botanic Gardens has started to bloom!

DBG members would get the first crack at seeing the monster plant starting at 6:00 a.m. When I arrived at 6:30, the parking garage was full and there was already a line that snaked its way around Marnie’s Pavilion. It was a little like standing in line for Space Mountain at Disney World.

It certainly paid to get there early. I waited just over an hour and was lucky enough to grab one of 1000 commemorative Corpse Flower barf bags — a clever play on the fact the plant emits a distinct fragrance to attract pollinators when it’s in full bloom.

Apparently some folks were disappointed the flower didn’t smell like rotting meat. I took a deep breath near the vent and immediately thought, “summer trash collection day in my neighborhood.”

This is the first time for the Corpse Flower to bloom, even though it’s been at the Gardens since 2007. The Amorphophallus Titanum originates in Indonesia where it grows on hillsides in the equatorial rain forests of Sumatra, anywhere from 400-1000 feet above sea level.

The plant is a member of the Arum family along with more familiar relatives like the Peace Lily and Calla Lily. But it’s safe to say, neither of those plants has gotten this kind of attention.

In its native habitat, the Corpse Flower starts as a seed and takes between 3-10 years to grow into a mature plant. During its reproductive stage it develops a tall spadix (the spike in the middle of the plant) that can grow 12 inches in a week.

After about two weeks, the flower (called a spathe) opens for just 1-2 days. During this time, the spadix warms to 98 degrees to attract as many pollinators as possible, until the flower starts to fade.

With luck, the fruits will mature in 6-12 months and produce 1 or 2 seeds. And the vegetative cycle begins again with the first bloom occurring when the plant is 8-20 years old.

So it’s no wonder the Corpse Flower has become a media darling and an Internet sensation.

I sure hope it’s enjoying its 48 hours of fame.


 

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