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About Cornell’s Titan arums

'Wee Stinky' flowering in the Palm House of the Conservatory in October 2016

‘Wee Stinky’ flowering in the Palm House of the Conservatory in October 2016

‘Wee Stinky’ – one of two flowering-sized Titan arums in the living collection of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory – is poised to flower again, likely before the end of the year (2018). It will be the second time this Titan arum has flowered in the new Conservatory, which re-opened in 2015.  And as a bonus, its sibling ‘Carolus’ stands right across the aisle in its vegetative stage, its single leaf towering into the rafters.

Titan arums (Amorphophallus titanum, also known as corpse plant) are famous for producing the largest unbranched inflorescence (flowering structure) in the plant world – as well as producing a big stink. During their brief, two-day display, plants produce a variety of chemicals that mimic rotting flesh to attract carrion flies and beetles to assist with the plant’s sophisticated pollination strategy.

‘Wee Stinky’ – grown from a seedling provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001 – first flowered in March 2012. About 10,000 people lined up to see the plant firsthand at the Kenneth Post Lab Greenhouse complex, while more than 500,000 checked on its progress via webcam. It flowered a second time there in November 2014, then again in the Palm House of the new Conservatory in October 2016. Sibling ‘Carolus’ flowered at the Kenneth Post Lab Greenhouses in June 2015, then again outside in Minns Garden adjacent to the Conservatory in August 2017.

When exactly will ‘Wee Stinky’ flower this time around?

'Wee Stinky' sibling 'Carolus' across the aisle in its vegetative stage.

‘Wee Stinky’ sibling ‘Carolus’ across the aisle in its vegetative stage.

That’s tough to predict precisely, but also part of the excitement. Based on previous flowerings, we currently estimate around mid-December. As flowering nears, growth of the spadix (the column-like structure in the middle of the plant) slows. But we never know for sure until late in the day when the skirt-like spathe surrounding the spadix starts to unfurl. Sign up for email updates (right column or bottom on mobile) and we’ll keep you posted.

How big will it get?

Last flowering, ‘Wee Stinky’ had a spadix grew to 87 inches tall. That was from a 65-pound corm – the underground tuber-like structure where Titan arums store their energy. This time, ‘Wee Stinky’s’ corm weighed about 75 pounds when planted. So we expect it will grow taller, but we’re also unsure how short days, low light and cooler greenhouse temperatures might affect the growth of this tropical plant, a native of Sumatra. You can check progress daily in the growth chart.

Can I come see ‘Wee Stinky’?

We’d love to have you.  The Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory is open to the public most weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. When flowering begins, we will extend visitor hours. Check the Conservatory websites for hours and visitor information.

The Conservatory is adjacent to Plant Science Building, 236 Tower RoadView map. 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.

How can I learn more?

The Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory houses one of several plant collections curated by the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and is maintained by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.

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