Monday, June 8, 2009

Foul-Stinking Flower Blooms at UMSL!!

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2009 at 12:56 PM

click to enlarge A sort-of blooming - PHOTO BY NICHOLAS PHILLIPS
  • Photo by Nicholas Phillips
  • A sort-of blooming
The corpse flower at UMSL hath bloomed!!! (Well, it opened up slightly.)

But the Daily RFT can assure you: on Sunday, it did smell like a rotting corpse. And it did remind us of death. I.e., your death. My death. The death that awaits each of us, always. But hey, the corpse flower lives. LOL!

There are several cool things about the corpse flower. First, it's huge (50 inches tall!). Also, it doesn't bloom every year (some specimens take three years; this particular one at UMSL on Sunday took 14 years). Native to the wilds of Sumatra, the corpse flower has bloomed in the U.S. fewer than 100 times.

But here's what's really cool: when it finally does bloom, it emits a foul stench to attract flies and beetles. These carrion insects pollinate the flower. 

Now, inside the UMSL greenhouse, there's nary a carrion fly, nor any neighboring corpse flowers.  So greenhouse manager Kathy Upton had to cut open the flower and insert some pollen she'd received from the University of California. (Sticking one's nose in that hole is, shall we say, inadvisable).

That tall, penis-looking thing is called the spadix. It helps emanate the foul odor as far and wide as possible. Like all smelly, penis-looking things everywhere, it's going to fall off in a few days. So will the leaves wrapping around it.

Then, after a few months, some bright red berries will develop at the base of the plant, and the circle of life continues.

For a bit more on the corpse flower -- a.k.a. Amorphophallus titanum -- click here and here

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