Be ready to enjoy the rare stink as Volunteer Park Conservatory’s corpse flower prepares to bloom

(Image: Friends of the Conservatory)

(Image: Friends of the Conservatory)

UPDATE: Bloom. The spokescat has spoken: one of Volunteer Park Conservatory’s corpse flowers is now in full bloom and reportedly it “stinks to high heaven!” The Conservatory — 1400 E Galer St — will keep long hours Friday, September 12th, staying open from 10 AM to 9 PM so as many admirers as possible can have a chance to see and smell the rare occurrence. Named Edward Allan Pew after a naming contest that ran the last few weeks came to a close earlier this week, the plant is the first titum arum to bloom at the Conservatory since 2008. As of June of this year, less than 160 corpse flower blooms were reported to have been documented worldwide since 1880.

A rarefied stench in the air? There is expected to be one any day now at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Visitors over the next few weeks may have the chance to experience a rare botanical occurrence through multiple senses as one of the corpse flowers now on display at the Conservatory is blossoming and shooting upwards. The plant is expected to bloom and release an odor that has been described as “a cross between rotting flesh and Limburger cheese” within the next two weeks.

Corpse flowers typically require seven to ten years of vegetative growth before blooming for the first time. This will be the first time the particular plant has bloomed since arriving in Capitol Hill in 2006, the Seattle PI reported, and the fist time any corpse flower has bloomed at the Conservatory since 2008, the Friends of the Conservatory group said.

Though CHS is not casting a prediction on precisely when the plant will bloom, the Conservatory’s “official spokescat” Ivan Von Katzen offered this forecast in a Facebook post Thursday:

Corpse Flower Watch: Our new buddy is on display at the Conservatory in the Bromeliad House and it grew an inch overnight! It now reaches 31″ and is growing fast! We anticipate the flower will be in full fragrant bloom within the next two weeks.Come take a look at this rare wonder Tuesday- Saturday [*Sunday] from 10:00 am – 3:00 PM – 1400 East Galer Street, Seattle WA — at Volunteer Park Conservatory.

Once the plant blooms, the supporting structure of its flowers, or the “spathe,” will likely only stay open for about 12 hours before starting to wilt, sources indicate, though some corpse flower spathes have been reported to stay open for one or two whole days.Native to western Sumatra, the corpse flower is known as bunga bangkai (“corpse flower”) in Indonesian or by the Greek name Amorphophallus titanum, or more commonly titum arum. In addition to the particular odor it emits when blooming, the titum arum produces the largest non-branched “inflorescence,” or group of flowers, of any plant in the world. Friends of the Conservatory explains:

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.

After its first bloom, the titum arum will typically bloom again after anywhere from another two to five years, to another seven to ten years, Friends of the Conservatory reported.

In addition to seeing one reaching bloom, you can also have a chance to win a 2-year-old titum arum of your own by coming up with a personal name for the blossoming corpse flower at the Conservatory. The “Name a Corpse Flower, Win a Corpse Flower” contest is on. Potential plant-namers can turn in their suggestions at the Conservatory, where entry forms are available at the gift shop, or via Twitter by sending their ideas to the spokescat — @Ivan_Von_Katzen.

The titum arum about to bloom at the Volunteer Park Conservatory was donated by the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse some eight years ago, the Seattle PI reported. It should soon be adding to a small pool of statistics: when a corpse flower bloomed at the conservatory in Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2013, only about 125 corpse flower blooms were said to have been documented worldwide since 1880.

The stench of corpse flower blooms do serve a purpose beyond generating sensational blog posts. The smell of rotting flesh emitted attracts insects such as the carrion-eating beetles and “flesh flies” that pollinate the plant in its natural habitats. Meanwhile, the flowers’ red color and their texture are said to add to the illusion that they are pieces of meat.

Something to chew on maybe if you make it to the Conservatory to check out the events now unfolding.

UPDATE: It’s over. Another sink has come and gone!

Sunday, September 14 was the last day for our Titan arum to be on display. Edgar Allan PEW was well on the way to total collapse by the end of the day. Stay tuned in future years for the next big stink!

2 thoughts on “Be ready to enjoy the rare stink as Volunteer Park Conservatory’s corpse flower prepares to bloom

  1. Even more amazing – that large tuber produces substantial heat from its spot underground. This heat helps carry the stench further, bringing pollinating carrion beetles and flies from far afield. #heatrises

  2. Pingback: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a corpse flower bloom — Meanwhile, Friends of the Conservatory holding plant sale, raising funds before construction closure | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

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