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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.

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.

Titan arum to bloom – outside

Carolus stands three feet tall in Minns Garden on July 24

Carolus stands three feet tall in Minns Garden on July 24

‘Carolus’ – one of two flowering-sized Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum) in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory’s collection – has broken dormancy and is preparing to bloom this summer.

But instead of unfurling its pungent inflorescence in the confines of the Conservatory, this year’s flowering will take place outside in Minns Garden, between the Plant Science Building and Tower Road.

“As far as we are aware, this is the first time anyone has tried this outside in a temperate region,” says Kevin Nixon, professor in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and the Conservatory’s curator.  Titan arums produce the largest unbranched inflorescences in the plant world.

Paul Cooper, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouse grower who maintains the Conservatory’s collection, planted Carolus’s massive 100-pound corm – an underground structure similar to a flower bulb – on June 14 in a pot in Minns Garden.  As of July 25, Carolus stood 38.5 inches and was growing about three inches per day.  (See Carolus’s growth chart to follow the plant’s progress.)

When it last bloomed in 2015, Carolus topped out at 76 inches tall. But predicting exactly when the inflorescence will peak this time around will be especially difficult, as the cooler temperatures outside could slow its progress. Best estimate right now is early to mid-August.

And the plan is not without some risk due to the possibility of severe weather or the plant not acclimating well to outdoor conditions in Ithaca and failing to fully develop. “Whatever happens, we’ll learn something new this year,” says Karl Niklas, Liberty Hyde Bailey professor in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Carolus's sibling Wee Stinky approaches full leaf in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory's Palm House on July 24.

Carolus’s sibling Wee Stinky approaches full leaf in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory’s Palm House on July 24.

The public is welcome to visit Carolus in Minns Garden any time.  “We’re looking forward to having more visitors to the garden this year,” says Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section, who supervises the garden. “We hope they’ll stick around to take in the other beautiful plants we grow there.”  Visitors can also stop in to the Conservatory, home to more than 600 plant species, which is just across the driveway from the garden and open most weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Carolus’s sibling ‘Wee Stinky’ – the first Titan arum to flower at Cornell – is in its vegetative phase there where its single leaf towers up into the rafters of the Palm House.

Assuming Carolus does bloom fully, visitors can expect a different experience than previous Titan arum flowerings. Outside, the odor – designed to bring in flies, beetles and other pollinating insects in search of an animal carcass – is likely to be more diffuse and less overwhelming. But instead of being visited by just a few stray insects that managed to find their way into the Conservatory, the outdoor bloom is likely to attract thousands.

The inflorescence is also expected to be smaller than previous indoor flowerings. Carolus has been running about two-thirds to three-quarters of its height during similar growth stages when it bloomed inside, possibly in response to the cooler temperatures.

You can learn more about the fascinating pollination strategy of this plant and view pictures and video of previous Titan arum flowerings at Cornell’s Titan Arum Blog. If you visit weekdays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., the nearest public parking is in the Peterson Lot at the corner of Judd Falls and Tower Roads, near Stocking Hall and the Cornell Dairy Bar.

Check back at our Conservatory news page for updates or sign up for email notifications using the subscription in the right column (or bottom of page in mobile).

 

 

Titan arum leafing out

'Wee Stinky'-- one of two flowering-sized Titan arums in the Conservatory's collection -- has broken dormancy and is beginning its vegetative stage (NOT flowering) 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 — has broken dormancy and is beginning its vegetative stage (NOT flowering) in the Palm House near the doorway to the Student House.

‘Wee Stinky’ — one of two flowering-sized Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum) in the Conservatory’s collection — has broken dormancy and is beginning its vegetative stage.

It’s not flowering, but sending up the single leaf (already more than 4 feet tall and growing 2 to 3 inches a day) that will top out near the rafters in the Conservatory’s Palm House.

For a year or more, the leaf will convert the sun’s energy through photosynthesis into starches stored in the arum’s underground corm to fuel the next flowering.

You can view the expanding leaf in the Palm House near the doorway to the Student House.

View time-lapse video from the last time ‘Wee Stinky’ flowered in October 2016.

Learn more about the lifecycle of Titan arums at Cornell’s Titan arum website.

 

 

Featured plant: Combretum indicum (syn. Quisqualis indica)

rangoon creeper Combretum indicum (syn. Quisqualis indica)
Commonly known as Rangoon creeper or Chinese honeysuckle, this vine grows up to 25 feet long. It is native to Asia but found in many other parts of the world as an ornamental, or has escaped cultivation to become naturalized.

It’s flowers are fragrant, with a sweet, fruity aroma that some find suggestive of Jolly Rancher candies.

The the tubular flowers open white at dusk attracting hawk moths with long tongues that can reach the nectar. They turn pink on the second day and red on the third, attracting birds, bees and other pollinators active during daytime. The flowers also go from horizontal to pendant during this transition.

Translated from Latin, its original genus name Quisqualis means Who? What? This probably stems from confused early botanists who observed it as both a shrub, which it resembles early in its youth, and later in its life as a rambling vine.

Look for it sprawling over the vestibule at the south end of the Palm House.

 

CU Alumni appreciate the Conservatory during Reunion Weekend

Reposted from Discovery That Connects, the School of Integrative Plant Science blog:

Cornell alumni, some visiting campus for the first time since creation of SIPS and opening of the new Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory, had an opportunity to learn more during the midday Botany and Plant Sciences Alumni gathering on Saturday June 10.  Visiting alumni were treated to refreshments including just-harvested Honeoye strawberries from Marvin Pritts, historical photos and videos, and conversation with current faculty and staff.

Midday tours were also provided in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory where visitors could view the newly opened Victoria Lily among many other attractions.

Victoria lily poised to flower

Victoria lily at 7 a.m. June 9.

Victoria lily at 7 a.m. June 9.

The Victoria lily (Victoria x ‘Longwood Hybrid’) in the Palm House water feature is poised to flower, perhaps the evening of June 9.

The Conservatory will be open during the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) Alumni Gathering Saturday, June 10 from 11:30 a.m. 1:30 p.m. in G22 Plant Science.

Learn more about the Victoria lily.

Stop by for a study break!

There are always plenty of plants to engage with at the Conservatory. Of particular note now:

Brownea spp. flowering in the Palm House low on the tree for great viewing. If you can’t make it before this flower fades, there’s another bud adjacent to it poised to bloom.  (View Brownea time-lapse video.)

Brownea spp.

Brownea spp.

There’s a new Victoria x ‘Longwood Hybrid’ water lily in all it’s spiny glory in the water feature in the Palm House. It’s not flowering yet, but it is thriving since its move from a tub the Plant Science greenhouse. (View Victoria lily time-lapse video.)

New Victoria lily in the water feature in the Palm House.

New Victoria lily in the water feature in the Palm House.

Brownea flowering again

Stop by the Conservatory soon if you’d like to see the spectacular display of our Panama Flame Tree or Rose of Venezuela (Brownea spp.)

This small evergreen tropical tree is a native of South and Central America where it grows in the rainforest understory and is used as a source of medicine, wood and handicrafts. It is a member of the Fabaceae plant family.

The flower is short-lived and will likely fade in a few days. But if you miss it this time, it’s been flowering every few months since moving into the Conservatory’s Palm House near the water feature.

Brassia spp. (spider orchid)

Brassia spp. (spider orchid)

Brassia spp. (spider orchid)

Brassia is a genus of commonly cultivated orchids that are native to Central and South America. They have flowers with long and spreading tepals which lend them the common name spider orchid.

The resemblance is key to their pollination strategy. Female spider-hunter wasps mistake the flowers for spiders, sting the lip of the flower and try to grasp the ‘prey’ without success. Doing so, they contact the pollinarium, which sticks to its head, then hopefully attacks another Brassia flower and pollinates it.

 

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