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It’s Blooming Awful! Rare Corpse Flower Expected to Thrill Binghamton University Greenhouse Goers

It’s going to cause a stink at Binghamton University’s E.W. Heier Teaching Greenhouse but the staff can hardly wait. One of their largest charges – the Amorphophallus titanum a.k.a. corpse flower or titan arum – is getting ready to bloom and expected to show off its strikingly good looks on or around Tuesday, September 14.

Believed to be one of the world's largest flowering plants, the bloom is expected to last only a day. But while the flower is stunning, it’s the smell that really knocks people off their feet. Reminiscent of the odor of decomposing flesh, the aroma is expected to permeate the area in and around the University’s greenhouse.

Binghamton University received this particular Amorphophallus titanum plant through the efforts of an alumnus, Werner Stiegler, who facilitated the donation of the bulb-shaped plan stern – a.k.a. the tuber - to the University’s greenhouse. The plant was grown from a seed that had come directly from Bali, Indonesia, and in keeping with the tradition of naming the corpse flower after mythological Titans from ancient Greece, Stiegler had called it “Metis,” in honor of the goddess of learning and teaching.

When Metis was sent to Binghamton University in 2007, it weighed in at a little over 4 lbs and measured a mere 8 inches in diameter. It was housed in the Tropical Room of Binghamton University’s Teaching Greenhouse and in spring 2008, produced a fair-sized leaf. But it really seemed to like its surroundings because by the time Metis went into dormancy later that year, it weighed a whopping 40 lbs and measured 24 inches in diameter.

In 2009, Metis again produced a leaf - this time, a big one, measuring 10 foot high and 10 foot wide. But producing such a large leaf took its toll and when Metis entered its dormancy period at the end of April 2010, it only tipped the scales at a skinny 30 lbs. Now, a mere 4 months later, Metis is back, producing its first flower at the ‘ripe’ old age of 5.

Typically titan arums are ‘teenagers’ when they begin to bloom – flowering at this young age indicates that Metis could be fairly ‘advanced’ for its age. Greenhouse staff are eager to see just how well Metis is going to do during its very first flowering, realizing of course, that since corpse flowers bloom very infrequently, they may not see another bloom for upwards of 15 years. At a little over 51 inches tall right now, Metis could very well have inflorescence of 5 feet or more.

Gail Glover | Newswise Science News
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