It’s big. It’s green. Its growth is rapid. And even before it actually blooms it easily brings “Audrey”, the plant from The Little Shop of Horrors to mind. An extremely rare titan arum, also called the corpse plant, is expected to bloom at the Kenneth Post Lab Greenhouses at Cornell University this week.
Titan arum, also known as Amorphophallus titanum, is a plant that grows in the wild only in the rainforests of Sumatra and rarely blooms in cultivation. Many universities and botanical gardens have specimens, but there have been approximately only 140 such cultivated blooms in recorded history.
The bloom can reach over three meters in height, and, when opened the powerful scent makes it clear where the plant’s common name “corpse plant” comes from. Pollinating insects are attracted to the odor and deep purple color in the wild, but the cultivated plants must be pollinated by hand, which certainly must be an olfactory challenge, to say the least.
The plant has fascinated botanists, collectors and the curious for centuries, and all blooms are documented with interest. The Huntington Botanical Gardens in California has famously documented multiple blooms, and Cornell has set up a “Greenhouse Cam” as well as opened the greenhouse to visitors for the historic event.
But for those of us unable to watch the spectacle in real time, the University of Connecticut has a time lapse from a bloom in 2011.