Return of the Corpse Flower!

Volunteer Park Conservatory's as-yet unnamed Amorphophallus titanum.  31" as of August 28.

Volunteer Park Conservatory’s as-yet unnamed Amorphophallus titanum. 31″ as of August 28.

Volunteer Park Conservatory staff were thrilled to discover one of the Amorphophallus titanum, commonly known as the Corpse Flower, Titan Arum, Devil’s Tongue, or Bunga Banki , is getting ready to bloom.

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 next two weeks! 

RELATED: Name the new Corpse Flower Contest!

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

Name the Corpse Flower Contest!

Name the Corpse Flower, Win a Corpse Flower Contest!

Name The Corpse Flower!Contest PosterVolunteer Park Conservatory has a new Corpse Flower blooming, and we need your help to give it a proper name!

The winner of the contest not only gets bragging rights, but will walk away with a CORPSE PLANT OF THEIR VERY OWN!

Our gardeners have donated a healthy 2-year-old Amorphophallus titanum which could eventually grow into a Corpse Flower. It’s an amazing opportunity to take home a rare and unusual specimen!  How cool is that?!

Entry forms are available in the Conservatory’s Palm House Gift Shop or you can Tweet your entry @Ivan_Von_Katzen.

So get those thinking caps on and give us your best shot! The winning entry will be announced on Monday, September 8 2014.

RELATED: Return of the Corpse Flower

Terms and Conditions:

No purchase necessary. Winning name will be chosen on Monday, September 8, 2014 and announced online. Entry forms available in the Palm House Gift Shop. Alternatively entries can be submitted via Twitter and Facebook. Winning entry must be accompanied a valid telephone number or e-mail. Volunteer Park Conservatory and Friends of the Conservatory staff members ineligible for prize, but may submit entries. Entry submissions become the property of the Friends of the Conservatory. By participating in the contest, you agree to allow the use of your submission in promotions pertaining to the contest. Any information gathered will be used solely for the purpose of this. Winner must be able to pick up prize at Volunteer Park Conservatory after September 8, 2014. Odds of winning are dependent on the number of entries received. Void where prohibited by law. 

 

FOC 2014 Fall Plant Sale! – September 13

Fall Plant Sale 4.5 x 11 Handbill TurquoiseMark Your Calendars!

Sept. 13th, 2014 - 10am – 3pm

 FOC Members-Only Preview Sale Starts at 9 am! 

The Friends of the Conservatory Fall Plant Sale offers mainly tropical, succulents and cacti for sale; similar to those in the Conservatory! Frequently we offer select plants from the displays and collections for sale.

Our Palm House Gift Shop has a huge sale as well!!! Stop by for the perfect plant and  pot to put it in!

A percentage of our proceeds go directly to support the Gardeners displays & collections, the remainder supports the Friends of the Conservatory and the programming that we offer to the public.

Show up early for best selection!!!

It’s always a great sale – don’t miss it!
Volunteer Park Conservatory - 1400 East Galer Street Seattle, WA 98112
Sale is located on the Dahlia Lawn near the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Plenty of free parking available on-site!

For more information: 206.322.4112 or www.volunteerparkconservatory.org

Volunteers Needed! 

You may have already volunteered at one of our plant sales*, or, maybe you’ve always wanted to - either way – we would love to have your help with this Autumn sale!

Our plant sales are our biggest money makers of the year, and help with the Conservatory Gardener’s Allocation Fund – meaning more beautiful displays!  As you know, the volunteers really make these sales a success and we are grateful for any help and time you can give us!  Whether you are a morning person, or prefer to show up when the sun is high in the sky, we have a job for you!  :-)

The sale is from (9 for FOC Members) 10 AM – 3 PM, and help is needed before, during and after.

Please email your response, including:

  • Which day you want to help
  • What time you want to arrive and leave
  • What job you prefer

Here are the jobs:

Thursday, September 10th: 

JOBS: plant identification + pricing/labeling (7:30 am to 4:00 pm)This is our biggest pre-sale day with the majority of our plants arriving 1st thing in the morning and tasks continuing throughout the day.  Volunteers should bring comfortable shoes and a lunch.

Saturday, SALE day, September 13th:

JOBSset uptear down; staff the hold section or information table; and the popular “whatever you need.” :)

NOTE:  You are welcome to set your own hours to help, as little or as much as you wish, and request the work you would most like to do.   Set up begins at 7 am, sale help is anywhere between 9 – 3 pm, and tear down starts at 2-ish, as the last customers are leaving.

Any help you can offer is great - it all helps the Conservatory! Thanks again for your offer to help!

Best,

Audrey and Rudi

Friends of the Conservatory

Please respond to: foc@volunteerparkconservatory.org

*If you have already signed up for this Fall’s Plant Sale – THANK YOU! – We’ll see you there!!!!

Here are the perks:Sale volunteers get 10% off the price off of their total order. They are also allowed, before the sale begins, to set aside plants they wish to purchase that day!New this Year: FOC Members can shop an hour early! Come at 9 am for the best selection!

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”

~Sherry Anderson

August Members-Only Gift Shop Special

BookSale!

Travel to Brazil!

BrazilThe Friends of the Conservatory is seeking individuals interested in a trip to and tour of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in mid-to-late August to early September 2015. (The exact dates are not available yet.)

Adventurers on this trip will visit exquisite gardens and botanical parks, plus museums,  and have the opportunity to sample new cuisine, hear some great music, and enjoy some R & R time as well.

More information will be forthcoming this fall

If interested, please contact Lars Husby (lhusby@bellevuecollege.edu) to pre-reserve a spot.