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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 waning. Carolus dancing.

Carolus continues to wane Friday morning.

Carolus continues to wane Friday morning.

Thanks to all who stopped by this week to visit Carolus blooming in Minns Garden (map) .

Carolus continues to wane, but will remain outside at least through the weekend if you’d like to take one last look. Soon, Conservatory staff will move the pot inside where the underground corm will remain dormant for a few months before putting out a single huge leaf to begin recharging the corm for next flowering.

Many visitors this week who had visited during previous Titan arum flowerings remarked how different the plant looked outside in a more natural setting. Another big difference: There’s no wind in the Conservatory. Outside, Carolus’s spathe was free to dance in the breeze.

 

Visit our Titan arum video playlist to view timelapse and educational videos from previous flowerings.

Carolus: Spadix collapsing

Overnight, the tip of Carolus’s spadix tipped over as it continues to dry down. (That’s entirely normal and expected.) There’s still a bit of the arum’s trademark aroma lingering. Stop by Minns Garden (map) for a look.

Carolus's spadix tipped over.

Carolus’s spadix tipped over.

 

Carolus: No longer (as) stinky

Carolus Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.

Carolus Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.

‘Wee Stinky’– one of two flowering-sized Titan arums in the Conservatory’s collection — towering in its vegetative stage in the Palm House near the doorway to the Student House.

‘Wee Stinky’– one of two flowering-sized Titan arums in the Conservatory’s collection — towering in its vegetative stage in the Palm House near the doorway to the Student House.

After putting on a stinky show for visitors to Minns Garden (map) on Tuesday, Carolus has lost most of it’s stink.

The Titan arum reached peak bloom outside early Tuesday morning. The spathe — dancing in the breeze — dried down steadily as the day progressed and is nearly totally desiccated this morning.

But the spadix is still standing and will likely stay upright for at least a few days. It’s hard to know for sure because this is the first time we’ve ever done this outside.

If you stop by for a look, you can also visit Carolus’s sibling Wee Stinky in full leaf touring into the rafters of the nearby Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory.  Conservatory hours at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. m

Carolus looking good — and still stinky

We weren’t sure how Carolus would respond to cool Ithaca temperatures. But the spathe unfurled fully and the Titan arum continues to emit its carrion-like odor to attract pollinators. Stop by Minns Garden (map) today for an up-close look — and smell.

An early morning photo shoot.

An early morning photo shoot.

 

Carolus still unfurling

Our fear was that Carolus would stall out after getting started. But the spathe continues to unfurl. And the aroma is getting pretty strong, especially in the zone immediately downwind of the plant.

How will Carolus look — and smell — in the morning? We don’t know. But please stop by to find out for yourself.

Capturing images inside the spathe.

Capturing images inside the spathe.

 Plant Sciences major Patty Chan and CUAES greenhouse grower Paul Cooper prepare to deploy a sticky trap inside the spathe to see what carrion-loving pollinators are attracted by Carolus's scent.


Plant Sciences major Patty Chan and CUAES greenhouse grower Paul Cooper prepare to deploy a sticky trap inside the spathe to see what carrion-loving pollinators are attracted by Carolus’s scent.

Carolus getting stinky

It’s not as powerful as inside. But Carolus is definitely starting to stink and draw in flies. Spathe has continued to unfurl.

A peek inside.

A peek inside.

Carolus opening tonight

Carolus this afternoon, just minutes before starting to open.

Carolus this afternoon, just minutes before starting to open.

A little before 4 p.m. this afternoon, Carolus started showing signs that tonight might be the night. Now, we’re confident that it is.

We’re anxiously watching to see whether or not it will bloom with the same vigor that our Titan arums have bloomed inside the controlled confines of the Conservatory and Kenneth Post Lab Greenhouses during previous flowerings. Or have the chilly Ithaca temperatures (compared to Sumatra) taken its toll on Carolus’s energy reserves. Time will tell whether or not the spathe will unfurl fully and how the stench will compare with earlier flowerings.

We’re also anxious to see what carrion-loving pollinators will be attracted by Carolus’s odor.

Stop by Minns Garden to join the fun. Map.

Parking on campus is restricted most weekdays during the day. But most lots near Minns Garden are unrestricted after 5 p.m. Please observe parking regulation signs.

During the day, the nearest public metered lot is the Peterson Lot at the corner of Tower Road and Judd Falls Road, across from Stocking Hall and the Cornell Dairy Bar.

Carolus less than an hour later, with the spathe pulling back from the spadix.

Carolus less than an hour later, with the spathe pulling back from the spadix.

Carolus getting close

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouse grower Trey Ramsey measures Carolus at 73.5 inches Sunday morning.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouse grower Trey Ramsey measures Carolus at 73.5 inches Sunday morning.

After more than a week of robust 3- to 4-inch growth daily, Carolus’s has slowed down over the last two days to 2 inches or less. (View growth chart.)

That’s a good sign, along with changes in coloration, that flowering will come soon — possibly early this week.

Subscribe to email updates (right column or below on mobile) if you’d like to be notified when we announce that blooming is imminent.

Carolus still going strong

carolus in minns

Over the last week, Carolus has grown 20 inches and now stands 56 inches tall in Minns Garden (map). And the towering Titan arum is still adding about 3 inches a day.

The last time Carolus bloomed in 2015 in the Kenneth Post Laboratory Greenhouses, it peaked at 76 inches tall.

When, exactly, will Carolus unfurl its spathe and begin emitting its pungent odor designed to draw in flies, beetles and other pollinators attracted by the prospect of finding a rotting animal carcass? That will be even more difficult to predict this time around due to Carolus being outside the controlled environment of a greenhouse.

But there are signs to look for, based on previous indoor flowerings.  A few days before peak, growth will begin to slow and the spathe will begin to show some reddish tinges. Then when the day arrives, late in the afternoon the spathe will start to pull away from the spadix and the show is on.

Hopefully. Even when flowering inside a cozy conservatory, Titan arums at other institutions have occasionally been known to simply run out of energy and never fully open. We’re prepared for that eventuality, as well. Either way, Carolus is already a showstopper in the garden.

If you’d like to be notified when Carolus starts to open, please sign up for email updates (right column or below on mobile).

Carolus stands 56 inches tall in Minns Garden on July 31.

Carolus stands 56 inches tall in Minns Garden on July 31.

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