Skip to main content

In the news

Titan arum to bloom in campus conservatory

One of Cornell’s two flowering-sized Titan arums — dubbed Wee Stinky for its putrid smell — is set to bloom for the fourth time. Rosemary Glos ’20 and greenhouse grower Paul Cooper measure Wee Stinky Dec. 7 at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory. Photo by Craig Cramer.

One of Cornell’s two flowering-sized Titan arums — dubbed Wee Stinky for its putrid smell — is set to bloom for the fourth time. Rosemary Glos ’20 and greenhouse grower Paul Cooper measure Wee Stinky Dec. 7 at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory. Photo by Craig Cramer.

CALS News [2018-12-11]:

The race is on.

One of Cornell’s two flowering-sized Titan arums — dubbed Wee Stinky for its putrid smell — is set to bloom for the fourth time.

The big question is, will the plant give its macabre display of smells, heat and color before students pack up and head home for the holidays and campus closes for the winter break?

“Probably,” says Paul Cooper, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouse grower who cares for the plant in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory on Tower Road, adjacent to the Plant Science Building. “But it’s next to impossible to predict exactly when until a few days before flowering.”

Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum) produce the largest unbranched inflorescence (flowering structure) in the plant world. And they are famous for producing a foul stench resembling a rotting animal carcass when they bloom to attract pollinating flies and beetles, a gruesome display that earns these plants the moniker “corpse flowers.”

Predicting precisely when the plant will bloom is complicated by cooler greenhouse temperatures and lower light intensities than what the tropical plant is adapted to in its native Sumatra, where it is threatened by habitat loss.

“Low temperatures and light intensities will likely slow the growth of the inflorescence,” says Karl Niklas, professor of plant biology. “It’s like a chemical reaction that depends on having the right temperatures and light conditions to proceed optimally.”

As of Dec. 11, Wee Stinky stood 81 inches tall and was growing 2 to 3 inches daily. The plant reached 87 inches when it last bloomed in 2016. There is reason to suspect that it may grow taller this year: The underground corm — a structure similar to a flower bulb — that stores the plants’ energy increased in size considerably during the plant’s vegetative stage between flowerings. Carolus, the other Titan arum and Wee Stinky’s sibling, is currently in a vegetable stage, with its single leaf topping the rafters in the Conservatory.

Cooper’s skill in coaxing these plants to flower every two years or so under the controlled conditions in the Conservatory presents the opportunity to study the flowering behavior of this remarkable plant, said Niklas.

Titan arums typically start opening late in the day so that they are fully open and aromatic at night. During flowering, the plants reach internal temperatures of more than 100 degrees to create a chimney-like effect that wafts the pollinator-attracting stench far and wide. The shorter winter days may cause the blossom to start opening earlier in the afternoon and could cause the plant to burn itself out, shortening the already brief event that usually lasts just two days, said Niklas.

The Conservatory is open to the public weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. If the flowering happens before campus closes Dec. 21, hours will be extended into the evening to accommodate visitors. Otherwise, a stinkless flowering can be seen on a livestream available at the Conservatory’s website. You can also sign up for email updates to be notified when flowering commences.

The Titan arum is not the only chance to see a rare flower in bloom. Angraecum sesquipedale (also known as Darwin’s orchid and Star of Bethlehem orchid) is also in flower at the Conservatory. When Charles Darwin first observed the flower in 1862, he predicted there must be a species of moth with a proboscis capable of extending deep into the flower’s foot-long spur petal to reach the nectar reserves at its tip. That moth, named Xanthopan morganii praedicta (or “predicted moth”), was discovered in 1903.

The orchid and arums are just two of about 600 species from 144 different plant families and 347 genera on display in the Conservatory, which is the living collection of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. The Conservatory is maintained by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Cornell Chronicle: Titan arum blooms outside for first time

Both the Cornell Chronicle and CALS News reported this week on Carolus’s historic bloom:

Carolus in full bloom at dawn August 8, 2017.

Carolus in full bloom at dawn August 8, 2017.

Summer breezes wafting through Cornell’s Minns Garden carried the aromas of fresh grass, notes of floral and, for a few days in August, something akin to rotting meat.

Yet the chance to experience that repugnant odor drew thousands of visitors to the garden near the Plant Science Building. The reason: Carolus, one of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum), as the giant, smelly tropical plant also known as a corpse flower bloomed outdoors for the first time ever in a region outside of the tropics.

Carolus started its dramatic show Aug. 7, unleashing its mighty rotten-meat stench that, in the sweltering forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, attracts flies, carrion beetles and other pollinators looking for a snack and a place to lay eggs.

Coaxing the plant to bloom outside in the cool of an Ithaca summer takes a lot of nerve and a little luck, said Paul Cooper, the greenhouse grower for the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES), who cares for Cornell’s two flowering-sized Titan arums.

Read the whole article.

Carolus on WBNG News

Niklas on WBNGKarl Niklas, the Liberty Hyde Bailey professor in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, explained what make Titan arums stink in a segment of WBNG News yesterday. Watch.

Cornell Chronicle: Bigger than ever, Cornell corpse flower poised to bloom

Paul Cooper, head grower for the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, measures Wee Stinky with the help of Bill Crepet, professor and chair in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. The Titan arum is one of hundreds of plants in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium managed by the Plant Biology Section.

Paul Cooper, head grower for the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, measures Wee Stinky with the help of Bill Crepet, professor and chair in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. The Titan arum is one of hundreds of plants in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium managed by the Plant Biology Section.

Cornell Chronicle [2016-10-10]:

One of Cornell’s famous corpse flowers is getting ready once again to unfurl its fetid bloom.

The plant nicknamed Wee Stinky, one of two flowering-sized titan arums in the living collection of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory, is prepping for a dazzling reproductive effort to make itself big, hot and smelly.

Called a corpse flower for the putrid aroma unleashed when it flowers, the titan arum has evolved a reproductive strategy to lure pollinators with pungent signals akin to rotting flesh. Dark purple coloring, a sickly scent, blasts of heat and plumes of carbon dioxide are all deployed to resemble carrion favored by certain pollinator insects. It takes years for the plant to build up the necessary energy to put on such a macabre display, only to burn it all off in a few days before wilting back to a vegetative state.

Read the whole article.

Conservatory featured on Ithaca College TV Newswatch

Ithaca College TV News Watch reporter Breana Cacciotti visits the newly re-opened Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory.

Conservatory featured on newyorkupstate.com

The Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory was featured recently on the regional travel website, Cornell’s Conservatory Greenhouse reopens after six-year hiatus. In addition to a great photo gallery, the site also features this 360-degree view of the Student Room.

lhb-bubblix640

Cornell Greenhouse Reopens After Six Years of Renovations

Karl Niklas

Karl Niklas

Cornell Daily Sun [2016-02-11]

Read the whole article.

Cornell greenhouse resembles tropical forest, with unique soil

Via CALS Notes [2016-02-11]

palm-house-soilx500Step into the Palm House in the rebuilt Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory, and you might imagine you’ve walked into a dense tropical forest.

The Palm House section fronting Tower Road features a single, large bed bounded by a walkway.  The meandering path surrounding the central bed planted with trees, ferns, legumes, flowering bromeliads and other plants is meant to simulate a tropical forest trail.

Named in honor of Liberty Hyde Bailey’s specialty, the Palm House holds bird-of-paradise, a titan arum, a number of cycads and species of ethnobotanical interest like cocoa and coffee plants in a bed filled with a growing medium made of a custom mix of coconut coir, biochar and clay-based products.

The other section, known as the Student House and located closest to the Plant Science Building, features potted plants arranged on benches. Plants in this section – orchids, cacti, euphorbs, grasses and an array of primitive and unusual plants – are used mainly for teaching and some research.

Learn more about the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory Greenhouse at the Cornell Chronicle.

Photos by Lindsay France

After six years, Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory reopens

Greenhouse grower Paul Cooper in the newly reopened Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory. (Lindsay France/University Photography)

Greenhouse grower Paul Cooper in the newly reopened Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory. (Lindsay France/University Photography)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-02-09]

The rebuilt Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory Greenhouse opens Feb. 9 as Cornell continues the botanical legacy of engagement and discovery established by the first dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The 4,000-square-foot facility at 236 Tower Road features modern equipment designed for increased energy savings and improved plant growth. But the spirit of the conservatory remains fixed on the ideals of education and outreach, says Professor Karl Niklas.

“The collection is a living archive describing the wondrous diversity of plant life,” says Niklas, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Botany. “Generations of Cornell students have relied on the conservatory to bolster their knowledge. The conservatory also provides students, staff and faculty with a green oasis in which to seek solace during the winter months. It promises to extend these important intellectual and emotional functions for many more years to come.”

Read the whole article.

Skip to toolbar