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‘Wee Stinky’ webcam

Visit our livestream page to view ‘Wee Stinky’ in real time on YouTube.

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An Ode to a Titan Arum: Wee Stinky

Rosemary Glos (Plant Sciences ’20) and greenhouse grower Paul Cooper measure ‘Wee Stinky’ December 7.

Rosemary Glos (Plant Sciences ’20) and greenhouse grower Paul Cooper measure ‘Wee Stinky’ December 7.

From Marla Coppolino, a frequent visitor to the Conservatory:

Wee Stinky, dear Wee Stinky,
Thy spathe is yet too dinky
We desire for you to bloom
Please tell us, can’t it be soon?

Phenomenal has been your recent growth
Might you be able to pledge your troth
That your great blossom will yawn
Prior to holiday break’s coming dawn?

Don’t you realize that Cornell shuts down
With Conservatory locked, we will frown
Our faces will be pressed to the glass
Just for a glimpse of your blossoming badass

O, how we long to see you up close!
And inhale the stink of your perfume so gross!
You have only until December twenty-first
Then we’re locked out, that would be the worst!

And in the New Year, when we’re all back,
Someone is sure to make a wisecrack
For with your flower finished, you may be placid
But all we’ll get to see is your spadix gone flaccid.

©2018 Marla Coppolino

Beneficial mites help ‘Wee Stinky’ fight pests

Packet of predatory mites (Neoseiulus cucumeris) hangs from Wee Stinky’s spathe

Staff in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory rely heavily on biocontrol as part of an integrated pest management program that drastically reduces the need to spray for pests.

In the case of ‘Wee Stinky’, they’ve enlisted the help of a predatory mite (Neoseiulus cucumeris) to help reduce populations of western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis).

These tiny thrips (adults are about 1 to 1.5 mm long) are common greenhouse pests and are particularly fond of feeding on the Titan arum’s spadix.

The predatory mites (about  0.5 to 1 mm long) are particularly fond of feeding on immature thrips.  They are shipped to greenhouse growers in the small packets you see hanging from the Titan arum.

As you tour the Conservatory, you’ll see packages of other beneficial organisms that feed on mealybugs, whiteflies, spider mites and other plant pests.

Titan arum ‘Wee Stinky’ preparing to flower

wee stinky 20181104

One of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory’s two flowering-sized Titan arums is preparing to flower, likely before the end of the year.

‘Wee Stinky’ — the first of Cornell’s Titan arums to flower in 2012 — has broken dormancy. Cornell University Agriculture Experiment Station greenhouse growers expertly moved the pot holding the plant into the bench area at the north end of the Student House where it will flower alongside its sibling ‘Carolus,’ currently in its vegetative stage. (View video of the move below.)

When will ‘Wee Stinky’ open and emit its pungent aroma? It’s hard to say at this point. At just over 6 inches tall, it has a long way to go. The last time ‘Wee Stinky’ flowered in October 2016 its spadix stood 87 inches tall. And we’re unsure how the short days and low light levels will affect the progress of this tropical plant. Our current estimate is sometime in early to mid-December.  As we chart its growth, we’ll get a better idea.

The Conservatory is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stop by to view the Titan arums and the 600 other fascinating plants that make up this living collection.

Learn more about Amorphophallus titanum | View time-lapse videos

Take a study break in the Conservatory

Titan arum

Need to recharge your batteries? Get a little plant fix?

Stop by the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory for a study break.

It’s free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

With the longer days, many of the plants are pumping out flowers.

Carolus — one of our two flowering-sized Titan arums (pictured towering above the Conservatory’s rafters) — has just about fully leafed out in its vegetative stage just inside the north entrance from the Plant Science building.

And the cacti, succulents and carnivorous plants are always worth checking out.

The Victoria lily in the Palm House continues to pump out blooms.

The Victoria lily in the Palm House continues to pump out blooms.

Passiflora spp. in the Student House.

Passiflora spp. in the Student House.

Bougainvillea spectabilis in the Student House.

Bougainvillea spectabilis in the Student House.

Pachystachys lutea, also known by the common names golden shrimp plant and lollipop plant in the Student House.

Pachystachys lutea, also known by the common names golden shrimp plant and lollipop plant in the Student House.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES)  greenhouse staff raise Carolus's pot so that it's leaf can open above the rafters.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) greenhouse staff raise Carolus’s pot so that it’s leaf can open above the rafters. View time-lapse.

Once again, Victoria lily in flower

Once again, the Victoria lily is flowering, having opened Sunday evening.  Stop by for a look. Read more about this plant.

Victoria lily flowering (again)

After about a 10 day rest, the Victoria lily in the Palm House resumed flowering last night.  Stop by for a look. Read more about this plant.

Victoria lily flowering

victoria lily

Update [2018-04-08]: After a stunning run of blooms, the Victoria lily is no longer flowering, for now anyway. We’ll keep you posted when flower buds reappear.

Last night the Victoria lily (Victoria x ‘Longwood Hybrid’) in the water feature in the Palm House began its dramatic two-day flower display. Currently there are two other flower buds showing. So you’ll likely have more chances to witness this plant’s spectacular bloom in the coming days if you miss this one.

The plant has much in common with the Conservatory’s Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum), even though the two species are not at all closely related:

  • It’s a large plant. The cultivar we’re growing is a cross between South American natives V. cruziana and V. amazonica. The latter is the larger of the two parents, and under the right conditions it can produce pads nearly 10 feet in diameter. People often photograph small children supported by the pads to demonstrate their strength. (Obey the signage and do not try it here. It’s dangerous and you’ll injure our smaller plant.)
  • The bloom time is short. Victoria lilies open at dusk and the blooms last only about 48 hours or so.
  • The flowers use fragrance and heat to attract pollinators. The first evening, the flower is white and releases a pineapple-like scent and generates heat to attract beetles. It’s a lot more pleasant than the foul odor Titan arums use to attract pollinators in search of rotting flesh.
  • The flower goes to great lengths to assure cross-pollination. During the first evening, the flower’s female parts are ready to receive pollen the beetles might be carrying from another Victoria lily. The flower then closes, trapping the beetles inside.  During the next day, the anthers mature and start releasing pollen that the beetles carry from the flower when it opens in the evening. The flower changes to a purplish red, signaling to beetles that their pollination services are no longer needed.

View time-lapse video of a previous flowering:

Featured plant: Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca

Fenestraria rhopalophylla

Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca flower (Shujie Li)

From Shujie Li ’17 (aka browneyedsilvia on Instagram):

Once in a while, the unambitious baby’s toes plant (Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca, Aizoaceae Family) prepares one to a few gorgeous flowers raised high above the ground.

In its native range, the Namibian desert, where water condition is extreme, this plant buries itself in sand and gravel to minimize water loss and hide from animal herbivory. While the plant is underground, it leaves just the clear “windows” on the leaf tips exposed to allow sunlight into the leaves where photosynthesis happens.

In fact, the plant produces optical fibers of crystalline oxalic acid which can transmit light to the photosynthetic sites. The genus name Fenestraria is derived from fenestra, the Latin word for “window”, and the specific epithet rhopalophylla means “club-leaved” (“rhopalon” means “club” in Greek).

Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca ‘windows’ (Craig Cramer)

Look for this plant on the succulent bench on the west side of the student house.

Victoria lily returns to LHBC

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouse growers Paul Cooper, Josh Manser and Laurence Walsh teamed up to move a Victoria lily (Victoria x ‘Longwood Hybrid’) started from seed by horticulture graduate student Miles Schwartz-Sax from a heated tank in the Plant Sciences Greenhouse to the water feature in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory where it has been flowering.  There are no flower buds showing now. But we’ll keep you posted when flowering in imminent.

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