Titan Arum: Eastern’s corpse flower to bloom (Updated)

Molly Dotson, Staff Reporter

Update 12:20 p.m., June 29: 

Greenhouse manager Steven Malehorn has issued his “first bloom alert,” according to a press release.

Malehorn expects the flower to bloom either today or Thursday. Blooming lasts for only a few hours.

According to the blog, the temperature when Malehorn stopped by at 5:30 a.m. was 60 degrees. “Hopefully, last night’s relatively cool temperatures won’t affect the bloom, other than to maybe push it back a day,” he said.



The Titan Arum (also known as the corpse flower), a tropical flower that has bloomed every other year at Thut Greenhouse since 2008, is set to bloom once again.

Steven Malehorn, greenhouse manager and parent of this massive flower, said he estimates that “The Velvet Queen,” the name he gave the plant, will bloom as soon as June 29, an approximation based on data from the previous four blooms at Eastern.

Malehorn will not know the exact date until around 24 hours before the corpse flower starts blooming. However, he said as soon as he knows the precise day, he will post it on the greenhouse’s twitter account as well as their webpage.

Malehorn said this tropical flower is widely known for its large size and even more so for the intense odor it produces during part of its blooming period.

“It will smell like roadkill in a dumpster,” Malehorn said.

The flower would likely not be pollinated without its distinctive aroma because its natural habitat, the Sumatra rainforest in Indonesia, is crowded with other types foliage.

Therefore, the dead animal-like odor is an evolutionary trait developed to attract flies, which are the pollinators of the corpse flower, Malehorn explained.

“Dozens of flies and hundreds of people are attracted when she blooms,” Malehorn said.

The entire blooming process will last for about 12 hours in total, Malehorn said.

“It will start to bloom in the middle of the afternoon. At 6 (p.m.) it will be fully open. After that it will begin to produce its aroma,” Malehorn said. “It will be at peak stink in the evening from 8 (p.m.) until midnight.”

Malehorn said he will be at the greenhouse from start to finish to witness (but mainly smell and even taste) this biennial phenomena and answer questions from those who join him.

For those who are unable to come out and smell the flower’s unique odor, there is a live feed of the flower.

Malehorn received his from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001 after their own corpse flower bloomed in 2000.

He planted his corpse flower seed, and it bloomed in 2008 and has bloomed every two years since then, which is the maximum amount of times this particular plant can bloom.

Malehorn said he was surprised that it only took the plant seven and a half years to bloom because it typically takes 10 to 12 years.

“I posted a picture (of the corpse flower) on an AERGC (Associate of Education and Research Greenhouse Curators) forum, and they said, ‘yep, it’s gonna grow,’” Malehorn said. “Then I was like, ‘Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s gonna grow! It’s gonna grow!’”

Malehorn said he attributes much of the corpse flower’s success to a tactic he calls “benign negligence.”

“The better you treat them, the less likely they will bloom,” Malehorn said. “Giving them perfect water, soil, fertilizer, temperature, light, and (corpse flowers) wouldn’t see any reason to bloom.”

Live streaming video of the event will be available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/corpse-flower-bloom.  Those interested can follow the greenhouse at http://twitter.com/ThutGreenhouse for up-to-the-minute bloom information.  For other information, including a daily blog, photos and parking information, go to http://www.eiu.edu/grnhouse/titan_arum.php.


Molly Dotson can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]