December 5, 2023

Innovation & Tech Today

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The Corpse Flower is a Late Bloomer and Reeks of Death, Say Happy Botanists

The Chicago Botanic Garden has a lot of stinky celebrations coming up these next few years. The garden’s collection of 13 Titan Arum plants may be blooming in the next few years. Also known as the corpse flower, this giant plant is known for its rotting meat smell and finicky blooming conditions. The corpse flower only blooms every 7 to 10 years and only for a 24 hour period. In that time, the flower produces a smell that is similar to rotting flesh. The smell is supposed to entice insects such as carnivorous flies and beetles to pollinate the plant.

In September 2015, Alice the Titan Arum bloomed in Chicago, causing botanists to pinch their noses in delight, though some may have been wafting that scent deeply. After a failed bloom in 2015, botanists worked diligently to ease stressful conditions of Spike, another Titan Arum plant. After adjusting the environment’s humidity, temperature, and nutrients, Spike may soon flourish and have its chance to stink up the garden. In doing so, botanists will get another first-hand experience watching this plant bloom. Sprout, another one of Chicago’s plants, was also expected to bloom, with telling signs cropping up around April of 2016. The event is so rare that a live stream captured the bloom of Alice in 2015, captivating audiences all over YouTube. A time-lapse of this event can be found below.

Native to the rainforests of Sumatra, everything about the Titan Arum plant is huge, hence the word Titan in its name. Reaching between 6 to 8 feet tall, the plant also has massive, individual umbrella-like leaves. Its root system can reach the size of a beach ball. Not much else is known about this plant and with deforestation; it may soon be incredibly rare to locate and study in the wild. According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, it is estimated that 72% of the Titan Arum’s habitat has been destroyed. The plant’s long growth cycle also means that the population cannot replenish itself quickly. Even wild plants take years to grow and bloom successfully.

Even so, with 13 plants growing tall and erect in their garden, Chicago’s Botanic Garden may have some stinky bloom days to celebrate. Hopefully there will be enough clothespins to go around.

Featured photo by Mike Ball

By Cyndy Hernandez-Martinez

By Cyndy Hernandez-Martinez

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