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A Corpse Flower Blooms

June 2


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

On June 2, 2010, Titan 2 was 8.86 inches (22.5 centimeters) tall and Titan 3 was at 9.125 inches (23.2 cm) tall. In this picture, Titan 3 appears to be is an inflorescence bud, which will eventually bloom, said greenhouse manager Jeff Hillyer, who tends to the foul-smelling plants and has monitored their progress towards blooming. At this stage, is was too early to tell when the flower would bloom, Hillyer said.

June 18


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

Titan 3 was 2.83 feet (0.86 m) tall on June 18, and was obviously an inflorescence and not a leaf, Hillyer said, because the spathe the protective leaf that encases the flowers is seen just behind the large outer leaf (called a bract) that is starting to peel. In it's life-cycle, the plant will either produce an enormous leaf or an inflorescence bloom.

June 20


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

Titan 3 was 3.5 feet (1.07 m) tall on June 20. During the past 24 hours, Titan 3 had grown another 4 inches (10 cm), and looked to be on track to be bigger than the Titan 1 inflorescence from May, said Hillyer.

June 26


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

After sprouting a record 5.875 inches (15 cm) in one day, the daily growth rate for Titan 3 declined for a third straight day on June 26. It only put on another 4.125 inches (10.5 cm) of height. However, it did exceed the 6-foot mark (1.8-m). On June 2, Titan 2 only slightly smaller than Titan 3.

June 27


Titan 3 has shed all but one of its large leafs, called bracts, suggesting that it would start to bloom in a few days. The daily growth slowed for a fourth day, and Titan 3 stood 6.3 feet (1.9 m) tall.

June 29


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

Bloom! Titan 3 began to bloom between 12 and 1 p.m. CT (1 and 2 p.m. ET), Hillyer said. By 9 p.m. CT (10 p.m. ET) the spathe was fully open. Titan 3 measured 3.7 feet (1.1 m) across.

Flower work


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

The Titan Arum bloom is actually not a single flower, but thousands of tiny flowers, which botanists call an inflorescence.

This picture is of the female flowers. When Titan 1 bloomed in May, Hillyer collected its pollen and dusted it on Titan 3. The yellow specs are the pollen.

The Corpse Flower


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

The plant stands approximately 6.6 feet (2 meters) tall and was 3.7 feet (1.1 m) across when fully open. Over the past 25 days, Titan 3's height swelled more than 5.6 feet (1.72 m) as it neared its blooming stage. In the wild, the plant can grow as big as 20 feet (6 m) tall and 15 feet (4.5 m) across.

Titan 3 up close


(Image credit: Jeff Hillyer/WIU.)

Titan's spathe pictured up close. The flower is a rare example of the Indonesian Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) plant. Native to the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia, it evolved its horrendous odor to attract pollinating carrion beetles and flesh flies, which normally feed on rotting flesh. The corpse flower's deep-red color and texture add to the rotting-meat scam.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.