Friday, April 9, 2021

Stinky Corpse Flower Blooms at Humboldt State

Posted By on Fri, Apr 9, 2021 at 2:05 PM

click to enlarge Amorphophallus konjac, the “corpse flower." - PHOTO COURTESY HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY.
  • Photo courtesy Humboldt State University.
  • Amorphophallus konjac, the “corpse flower."
Things are getting a bit stinky at the Humboldt State University greenhouse, where a corpse flower — with a bouquet like rotting flesh — is in bloom.

While the odor may be off-putting, the aroma does its job in attracting the plant’s pollenators: dung beetles, carrion flies, and other scavenger insects.

But don’t get your hopes up on getting a glance at the Amorphophallus konjac. The university is closed to all visitors due to COVID-19 and the public is not allowed in the greenhouse at this time, according to a HSU news release.

“This plant requires specific and consistent environmental conditions to flower, which can happen every year around early spring in the HSU campus greenhouse,” greenhouse manager Brianne Lee said in the release.

A native of tropical and subtropical areas of eastern Asia, the corpse flower bloom is a stock made up of many flowers that can grow to up to 36 inches wide and 72 inches long.

According to the release, the plant is “commonly grown in research greenhouses and seduces both botanists and gardeners with its botanical complexity.”

Read more about the corpse flower in the HSU release below:

One of the planet’s most unusual flowering plants, Amorphophallus konjac, is commonly known as the corpse flower for its distinctive and downright fleshy smell. This week, Humboldt State University’s very own corpse flower has bloomed, thrusting its burgundy stalk skyward and releasing a pungent aroma into the subtropical dome of the campus greenhouse.

Blooming only once a year on average, bearing witness to the opening of the corpse flower is special.

“This plant requires specific and consistent environmental conditions to flower, which can happen every year around early spring in the HSU campus greenhouse,” says Brianne Lee, HSU’s greenhouse manager.

Not actually a single flower but an inflorescence (a stalk of many flowers), the plant can grow to 36 inches wide, with the inflorescence growing up to 72 inches. Native to warm subtropical to tropical areas of eastern Asia, the corpse flower is commonly grown in research greenhouses and seduces both botanists and gardeners with its botanical complexity.

The smell of the blooming plant—which is often described as a feral, decaying odor akin to rotting flesh—“is actually to the plant’s benefit”:https://www.livescience.com/51947-corpse-flower-facts-about-the-smelly-plant.html.

The inflorescence contains nodules that emit an odor to attract the flower’s primary pollinators: dung beetles, carrion flies, and other scavenger insects. Along with the royal burgundy color and elevated body-like temperature (98 degrees), the funky smell serves the biological function of imitating a dead animal to attract pollinators who may be searching for a suitable site to lay eggs. Once pollination is complete, the flower collapses, a process that takes only two to three days.

“The corpse flower is a unique and valuable addition to any university’s teaching greenhouse,” says HSU Botany instructor Stefani Brandt. “For my labs in Plant Taxonomy, I use the corpse flower as a prime example of how species adapt to attract quality pollinators in order to successfully reproduce.”

Giving a fleeting but spectacular performance this week, HSU’s own corpse flower is an incredible example of the ingenuity of the plant kingdom.

As a reminder, the HSU campus is currently closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. No one is permitted admittance to the greenhouse at this time.
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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