Conservatory Construction Closure Update

ScaffoldVolunteer Park Conservatory is closed to the public during the months of October and November to finalize work on the 2014 Restoration and Capital Improvement Project.

The Cactus and Seasonal house structural supports are firmly in place, and the remaining safety glass panels are being installed over the next two weeks. After the glazing is completed, new actuators to open and close the vents will be installed.

ConstructeesMeanwhile, in the Palm House, crews have been busy shaping and fitting sheet metal for new planting benches. The old benches were too wide to meet ADA standards. The new benches will help provide better wheelchair access.

The Clise orchid collection is taking a holiday in the lower production house during the construction phase, but will be returned in time for the grand opening celebration in December.


The final phase of construction on the Conservatory is the installation of new outward-opening main doors on the Palm House, as well as Bromeliad and Cactus Houses, which will provide better egress in case of emergency.

Just below the Conservatory, the new east production greenhouse and multipurpose facility are making large strides as well. Beautiful new structural supports are in place, and glazing will be completed over the next few weeks.

The FOC and the Conservatory staff are looking forward to 1500 additional square feet of flexible production space and can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world at the Reopening Gala Celebration December 6th!

And don’t forget: even though the Conservatory’s doors are closed, the FOC is still hard at work behind the scenes. If you receive a renewal notice please be sure to mail it back to us to help keep us moving!

You’re Invited to the Gala Reopening Celebration!

Reopening Gala Title Croppable

The Friends of the Conservatory in cooperation with Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Seattle Parks Foundation are pleased to announce the Volunteer Park Conservatory Gala Reopening Celebration.  This will be a night of glamour and excitement to be remembered!


Enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the newly restored Cactus and Seasonal Houses, which will shimmer with the magic and glamor of the season.

Be among the first to explore the new multi-purpose production house while sampling decadent desserts and listening to festive live entertainment.

It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season in one of Seattle most unique treasures, while supporting a great cause!

Each ticket level includes admission to the event plus food, drink, admission and processing fees.

WHEN: December 6, 2014
COST: $150 – $500
DRESS: Cocktail Attire

For more information contact or 206.322.4112

FOC Orchid Sale

OrchidAnnouncing…The Friends of the Conservatory Orchid Sale!!!!

We have too many divisions and not enough space. Buy a specimen and make room in our collection!

Classic varieties, mystery unknowns, and more! All orchids are priced to sell. Everything must go.

All proceeds directly support the Friends of the Conservatory.

Follow the signs leading west from the Volunteer Park Conservatory to the Production Greenhouse

October 18, 2014   11 am to 2 pm

Introducing: Edgar Allen Pew! Our newest Corpse Flower!

Edgar Allan PewThe results are in and the winning name in our Name the Corpse Flower, Win a Corpse Flower contest is

Edgar Allan Pew

as submitted by Twitter User @SanDiegoExile

As of this writing Edgar measures 35 1/2″. The spathe has become exposed and is just beginning to change color from green to deep red.

Edgar is growing at a steady pace now, gaining at least one inch of height each day.

We anticipate the bloom could be open as soon as Thursday the 11th, but could be sooner or later.

For the latest updates follow Ivan Von Katzen on Twitter or Facebook.

RELATED: Return of the Corpse Flower

RELATED: Edgar Allan Pew Growth Chart


Return of the Corpse Flower!

Volunteer Park Conservatory's as-yet unnamed Amorphophallus titanum.  33" as of September 3.

Meet Edgar Allan Pew, Volunteer Park Conservatory’s new Amorphophallus titanum. 36″ as of September 10.

Volunteer Park Conservatory staff were thrilled to discover an Amorphophallus titanum, getting ready to bloom.

Dubbed “Edgar Allan Pew” as the result of a popular naming contest, A. titanum is commonly known as the Corpse Flower, Titan Arum, Devil’s Tongue, or Bunga Banki in its native Indonesian.

This is no ordinary occurrence, however, Titan Arum typically take anywhere from 7 – 10 years  of vegetative growth before blooming for the first time. After its initial blooming, there can be considerable variation in blooming frequency. Some plants may not bloom again for another 7–10 years while others may bloom every two to three years.

The last Corpse Flower bloom at Volunteer Park Conservatory was in 2008.

We anticipate our new Corpse Flower will bloom at the Conservatory within the week! 

RELATED: Edgar Allan Pew Growth Chart

Once a blossom appears, the  Corpse Flower grows rapidly and can reach a height of over 10-feet within the course of a few weeks.  It grows from a large tuber which can reach 150 pounds or more.  Said to be the largest “flower” (in sheer bulk) in the world, it is technically an “inflorescence”, or a cluster of flowers. The inflorescence has both male and female flowers with female flowers located below the male flowers.

A single huge umbrella-like leaf appears alternately with the flower and is itself quite “titanic”. In cultivation it can reach over 12 feet high, its stalk in the wild can reach 20 feet tall and 15 feet across.

In addition to its colossal size, the Corpse Flower is well-know for another characteristic: it stinks!

Corpse Flower Illustration by Genevieve Dolan

As the spathe gradually opens, the spadix releases the powerful fragrance of rotting flesh to attract pollinators. These include carrion beetles which normally dine on dead animals decaying on the jungle floor. The Corpse Plant tricks these creatures with both the intense odor, and deep-red meat-like color. The corpse plant is not carnivorous  (meaning it’s not interested in eating these insects), rather the insects collect pollen as from the male flowers as they search for a meal, and carry this to the female flowers of other Arum Titanum.

The aroma gradually increases from late evening until the middle of the night and then tapers off as morning arrives. According to Wikipedia, Analyses of chemicals released by the spadix show the “stench” includes dimethyl trisulfide (like limburger cheese), dimethyl disulfide, trimethylamine (rotting fish), isovaleric acid (sweaty socks), benzyl alcohol(sweet floral scent), phenol (like Chloraseptic), and indole (like mothballs).

Corpse Flower Facts: 

  • Discovered in 1881 by Italian botanist and explorer Odoardo Beccari (1843-1920) in Sumatra, at the height of plant hunting during the Victorian era.
  • Seeds sent by Beccari to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1881 flowered in 1889.
  • Amorphophallus means shapeless phallus. In the Victorian Era, ladies were not permitted to view it because of its phallic appearance.
  • First A. titanum to bloom in U.S. was at NY Botanical Garden in 1937.
  • Initially imagined that elephants pollinated but in truth, it is pollinated by dung and carrion beetles that get trapped.
  • Historically feared to consume the gardener growing the plant.
  • Indonesian name is bunga bangkai, which roughly translates to “corpse flower”.
  • The titan arum has the largest unbranched inflorescence (flower cluster) of any plant, up to 7 ½ feet tall.
  • Another Sumatran plant, Rafflesia arnoldii, produces the largest individual flower in the world – up to three feet wide.
  • Average flowering height for the titan arum is 6 feet.
  • The top of the spadix can be 10º warmer than the surrounding air temperature.
  • The actual tiny flowers are hidden by the surrounding spathe.
  • 450-5000 male florets packed tight make a 2.5-3 inch ring.
  • 700 female florets are each ¾ inch long.
  • Female florets are what smell when mature.
  • Odor can be so strong that the human nose can detect it over half a mile away.
  •  The smell can also make your eyes water, and your clothing may smell after you get home.
  • Does not self pollinate. Insects must carry pollen to another flowering plant.
  • Spathe collapses when flowering is completed to keep the fruits dry in the rainforest environment.
  • The tuber loses weight during flowering (one was recorded to have lost 7 lbs)
  • It is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world.
  • Plants tend to occur in clusters in Sumatra but no population study has been done.
  • Hornbills have been seen feeding on berries and are a possible seed disperser.
  • Security guard in Fairchild Botanical Gardens had to wear a gas mask the night of flower opening.
  • In a 2003 episode of The Simpsons, Homer and the gang make a journey to the Springfield Arboretum to view a large smelly plant on display.


Some recorded flowerings:

  • 1889 Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (UK)
  • 1926 Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (UK)
  • 1937 New York Botanical Garden (New York, NY)
  • 1996 Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew (UK)
  • 1998 Fairchild Botanical Gardens (Miami, FL)
  • 1999 Huntington Botanical Gardens (San Marino, CA); University of Washington
  • 2002 Virginia Tech University, UC Santa Barbara
  • 2003 US Botanical Gardens (Washington D.C.); Bonn Botanic Garden (Germany); University of California at Davis
  • 2004 University of Connecticut
  • 2005 Fairchild Botanical Gardens (Miami, FL)
  • 2005, 2006, 2008 Volunteer Park Conservatory

Flowering titans are increasing at botanical gardens worldwide as we learn more about how to grow them successfully.

Corpse Flower Cycle

Amorphophallus titanum growth cycle