CSU, Chico News

‘Corpse Flower’ Has Second Ghastly Blooming in 10 Years

Date: 05-29-2007

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

For the second time in 10 years, California State University, Chico’s beautiful but smelly “corpse flower” is blooming.

Amorphophallus titanum, 56 inches tall from soil to the tip of its bloom, opened yesterday evening, May 28. The bloom may last only a few days, said Tim Devine, who manages the Department of Biological Sciences’ greenhouses.

Devine has moved the large exotic plant outside the greenhouse on the north side of the Physical Science building so that people can view the bloom and, if they care to, sniff its foul odor.

The rare Indonesian plant uses a smell akin to rotting flesh to attract carrion-seeking insects, thereby earning its ghoulish nickname.

The corpse flower plant can grow to more than 9 feet tall. Devine said relatively little is known about how long the plants live. CSU, Chico acquired its amorphophallus titanum 10 years ago.

Only when in bloom does the plant exude its unpleasant smell. The plant’s inflorescence, or flower, has a wide purple shell that surrounds a tall column. Heat is produced along with the odor.

Blooming corpse flowers have attracted plenty of interest at botanical gardens and universities lucky enough to have them. When CSU, Chico’s plant bloomed the first time in 2004, a steady stream of curious onlookers visited the greenhouse by the Physical Science building.

While the bloom lasts, the corpse flower will be outside the Physical Science greenhouse during the day as much as possible for people to see it, Devine said. When it is not out-of-doors, it will be visible just inside the greenhouse door, he said.

CSU, Chico’s biological sciences department has more than 3,000 living plants in its campus greenhouses, and a herbarium of more than 95,000 dried and mounted specimens.