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Stinky Corpse Flower Gets Ready for Second Bloom

corpse flower, smelly flower
Western Illinois University's Titan Arum #3, a plant nicknamed the "Corpse Flower" due to its putrid odor when it blooms, is on the verge of blooming again. (Image credit: Jeff Hillyer)

A so-called "corpse flower" is getting set to make a stink just two years after it initially bloomed, Western Illinois University (WIU) greenhouse announced today.

The corpse flower is the nickname for the plant technically known as an Indonesian titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) plant. Native to the equatorial rain forests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia, these flowers are as rare as they are malodorous. They grow in the wild only in the rain forests of Sumatra and rarely bloom in cultivation.

Corpse flowers can tower over the crowds that flock to see them open. The plants have a feature called an inflorescence that can reach 10 feet (3 meters) or more in height.

"The bloom (or inflorescence) is composed of thousands of flowers, and the nickname comes from the bloom's odor that smells like rotting meat," said Jeff Hillyer, a manager at the WIU greenhouse. "In its native environment of the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia, the Titan Arum is pollinated by carrion beetles and flesh flies, which are attracted to the horrendous odor."

Curious members of the public will be able to watch the blooming process either in person and online.  The greenhouse, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, will open for special hours when the blooming really gets under way.Those who can't make it in person can see the proceedings, though they won't be able to experience the smell, on a livestream:

Titan No. 3, as this bloom is known, first bloomed on June 29, 2010. Its fellow corpse flower, Titan No. 1, bloomed in May 2010 and Titan No. 2 bloomed in September 2011.

WIU obtained the plants from seeds from the University of Wisconsin that were initially collected in 1993 by James Symon in Sumatra while filming Sir David Attenborough's BBC documentary "The Private Life of Plants." WIU's Titan Arums are among the first generation of these plants cultivated in the United States.

Corpse flowers are members of the Araceae family, which includes plants such as jack-in-the-pulpit, calla lilies and philodendrons, Hillyer said.

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Live Science Staff
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