Rare plant due for rare blooming this week
One bloomed in the Kew Gardens in London in 2009. A little closer to home, you could have traveled to Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul to see one in 2008 or to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter in 2013.
Now there’s a local venue for horticulture lovers to view a rare sight: Sunrise River Farm in Wyoming is expecting a corpse flower to open this week.
“It is very exciting to have such a rare event in the greenhouse,” owner Ed Stec said. “I have let some of the local plant people know this is happening, so I am sure we will have a small crowd.”
Stec’s 4-feet-tall corpse flower is expected to open midweek. A live Web stream will be set up to track its progress at www.sunriseriverfarm.com.
The Latin name, Amorphophallus titanum, translates as “giant misshapen phallus.”
It really is a giant. Growing in the wild only in Sumatra, Indonesia, the plant’s inflorescence, which includes both male and female flowers, can grow to 10 feet tall.
The opening will last only a couple days. The female flowers on the bottom ring open first, and a day or two later, the male flowers. This prevents self-pollination.
So once the spathe opens, pollination from another plant must happen the same day.
To quickly attract the carrion-eating beetles and flies that pollinate it in the Sumatran rainforest, the plant gives off the smell of rotten meat.
The reddish color on the inside, the texture and the temperature (the tip is warm to the touch) contribute to the illusion of dead meat. Thus the common name, corpse flower.
After the flower dies back, a single leaf will grow in its place, getting as tall as 20 feet in one year.
Each year a new leaf grows until the plant has stored enough energy to grow another inflorescence in a few years.