Is Our Titan Arum Blooming Again? YES!
Following six and a half years of growth, the Titan Arum in the H.F. Thut Greenhouse at Eastern Illinois University produced its first inflorescence in June, 2008. And what an inflorescence it was! Its huge inflorescence and powerful road kill aroma attracted several hundred flies, and over 3000 visitors.
After the inflorescence died back in July, 2008, it sent up a single fifteen-foot tall leaf in August, 2008. The leaf died back in late November, 2009 and the forty-five pound tuber remained dormant until early March, 2010 when it started growing again and developed into an inflorescence!
The inflorescence opened on June 9, 2010. It was taller, wider and more colorful than the 2008 bloom. Final measurements: 72" tall, 32" diameter spathe and 12" peduncle. However it was also less stinky than in 2008, which may have been good or bad depending on your expectations.
The blooming titan attracted about 1,000 greenhouse visitors and over 15,000 virtual visitors from around the world through our live Internet webcast. WOW!
Here's a brief PDF blurb about our Titan Arum
The Titan Arum or Amorphophallus titanum is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. The plant is also known as the carrion flower or the corpse flower because the flower’s fragrance is similar to the odor of rotting meat. The Titan Arum was discovered by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari, in Sumatra in 1878. It grows wild only in the tropical forests of Sumatra. The Titan Arum first flowered in cultivation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew in London in 1889. Since then, over 100 cultivated flowers have blossomed. Titan Arum flowering was first documented in the United States at the New York Botanical Gardens in 1937.
The Titan Arum grows from a tuber which can eventually weigh over 200 pounds. The plant produces a single leaf that can reach twenty feet tall and fifteen feet across with a petiole as thick as a person's thigh. The single leaf will grow for about twelve to eighteen months and look almost tree-like. The leaf will then die back and the tuber will rest for about six months, followed by another single leaf.
After a number of years of vegetative growth, the tuber will send up a single inflorescence with both male and female flowers. The inflorescence develops over about three to four weeks and when fully developed can reach ten feet tall by three to four feet wide. The spadix (fleshy central column) has thousands of flowers hidden in its base. The outer spathe, which looks like a frilly upturned skirt has a maroon interior and green exterior. The large inflorescence usually opens abruptly (within hours) and remains open for only a day or a day and a half.
Image courtesy Mo Fayyaz, University of Wisconsin - Madison
When fully open, the inflorescence produces a "rotting-fish-burnt-sugar" scent. The odor is strongest at night and attracts carrion beetles and flies which serve as pollinators. Additionally, the tip of the spadix warms up to approximately the temperature of the human body. This heating is thought to assist in dispersing the scent. After three to five days the spadix collapses. The spathe falls off and the fruit mature if there has been successful pollination. The poisonous ripe fruit are bright orange-red, about the size of cherries and are attractive to birds. Birds eat the fruit and disperse the seeds.
The seed for the Titan Arum at Eastern Illinois University was obtained from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2001. The ovule donor was “Big Bucky” and the pollen donor was “Mr. Magnificent” from the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Our Titan Arum's name is "The Velvet Queen."
The seeds for both “Big Bucky” and “Mr. Magnificent” were collected by Dr. James R. Symon during a trip to Sumatra in 1993 on a BBC expedition filming The Private Lives of Plants. Dr. Symon collected the seeds from the sole A. titanium found in fruit and distributed the seeds to U.S. and British conservatories and greenhouses for cultivation. Amorphophallus titanum is on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Titan Arum FLOG (flowering log)
May 22, 2010
I think it might be producing its second inflorescence. The bud was 19.5 inches tall and 12 inches in circumference. We will just have to wait and see what happens. If this is an inflorescence, the spadix should emerge in about a week and an additional ten days or so later, the inflorescence will open. If it isn't an inflorescence, the leaf should emerge shortly.
I'll keep an eye on it and post daily pictures and stats as it develops one way or the other. I'm sitting on pins and needles here! Keep your fingers and toes and eyes crossed!
May 23, 2010
The bud was 20.5 inches tall and 12.5 inches in circumference this morning. I moved it to the middle of the Tropical Room walkway and cleared plants away from the south window so you can see it from the sidewalk outside. As the possible due date gets closer and if/when the spadix emerges I will establish greenhouse open hours for visitors to come inside and look around, probably late afternoon and early evening. The greenhouse will, of course, be open for the big event until the wee hours of the morning... if there is a big event... Here's a map showing the greenhouse location on campus.
May 24, 2010
The bud was 22.5 inches tall and 13.5 inches in circumference this afternoon.
May 25, 2010
The bud was 23.5 inches tall and 14.5 inches in circumference this afternoon. Something is emerging from the top. A leaf? A spadix? I will know for sure in the next day or two.
May 26, 2010
The bud was 26.25 inches tall and 16.0 inches in circumference this afternoon.
When I first examined what emerged today, I thought it might be a leaf because there was what appeared to be a smooth petiole at the base of the plant where a bract split. But comparing today's picture with the 2008 bloom on June 7, 2008, which had the same height and girth, this may be the final bract. Also, in 2008 the spadix didn't emerge until June 11, 2008 when the bud was 37.5 inches tall and 23 inches in circumference.
Soooo, I think we're still in the running for an inflorescence. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat! If it does behave like the one in 2008, the spadix will emerge in four more days and it will bloom in two weeks (if it blooms).
May 27, 2010
10:00 AM. The bud was 28.5 inches tall and 17.0 inches in circumference.
The outermost bract split at the bottom and I used my fingers to press inward and feel the contours of what was under it. I explored the base and middle of the bud with my hands, gently pressing inward, then more firmly pressing inward. I detected a relatively narrow "post" that rose eight inches and suddenly flared outward to a very dense mass. AHA! A peduncle! At least by touchy-feely standards it's an inflorescence.
5:00 PM. The bud was 29.0 inches tall and 17.5 inches in circumference.
A little bit more development at the top of the bracts today. Looking at what is poking out, I'm beginning to think that the flare I felt at what I thought was the top of the peduncle is instead where the branches of the leaf begin at the end of the petiole. So I'm shifting this morning's alert from yes back to maybe. Even though it looks exactly like the bud that flowered two years ago, we may have to wait a couple more days to be sure and actually see the spadix emerge. *sigh*
I'm waffling. I know...
May 28, 2010
3:00 PM. The spadix just poked its head through the bracts.
Its an inflorescence! Woo Hoo! (BIG smiley face)
If the inflorescence develops like it did in 2008, it should do its thing in about ten days or so.
6:00 PM. The bud inflorescence was 30.0 inches tall and 19.0 inches in circumference.
May 29, 2010
5:00 PM. The inflorescence was 33.0 inches tall and 20.0 inches in circumference.
Vertical growth is starting to pick up speed. Three inches today and the spathe is starting to emerge. The inflorescence will hopefully add another two feet or more before it opens. You can get a good view of it from the sidewalk on the south side of the greenhouse at any time, day or night.
May 30, 2010
6:00 AM. Another Titan Arum is about to bloom at The Huntington in California. When theirs first bloomed in 1999 (the 11th recorded U.S. bloom), the event attracted 80,000 visitors and created international headlines. WOW. I'm not expecting that many here, but when ours bloomed in 2008 it was the first in Illinois and the 125th documented blooming of a Titan Arum.
Huntington 2009 Corpse Flower on YouTube.
Huntington 1999 Corpse Flower timelapse on YouTube
5:00 PM. The inflorescence was 36.75 inches tall and 22.5 inches in circumference. Almost four inches of growth in the past day. The spathe is growing fast as well.
9:30 PM I set up a Twitter account for the greenhouse to help get the word out that our Titan Arum is about to bloom. I will tweet important (and probably some insipid) news about the event and the bloom's progress as we move toward the big event. I'll also get the word out ASAP when the spathe looks and feels like it's about to open. You'll probably get some message like "OMG OMG OMG It's opening!!!!!" or something to that effect. Please feel free to retweet the messages and spread the news.
Follow the event on Twitter: ThutGreenhouse Hashtag for Titan Arum Bloom updates: #EIUTitan
May 31, 2010
12:30 PM. I installed a live webcam in the Tropical Room to broadcast the inflorescence as it develops.
5:00 PM The yardstick is too short to measure the growth now. Time to use a tape measure. The inflorescence is 41.75 inches tall and 25.25 inches in circumference. Five inches of vertical growth and nearly three inches in girth in the past 24 hours. Things are looking up! There is a slight hint of pink appearing on the spadix.
The sky clouded over and we had a squall line pass through followed by light rain this afternoon. It's still cloudy outside and cooler as well. That should slow down growth a bit.
June 1, 2010
9:30 AM. I was standing on the sidewalk outside the greenhouse this morning, taking a breather from pulling weeds and noticed a loooong train of 5-7 year-olds slowly winding its way through the pathways of The Secret Garden. Their leader was carefully guiding them along and an ever-watchful attendant was bringing up the tail end, monitoring their progress (or lack thereof). The group gathered where I was in front of the Titan Arum and I introduced the flower to them, telling them that it will get to be six feet tall and smell like stinky socks. A chorus of "Ewwws" rose from the crowd. Their leader then asked them if they knew how tall six feet was. "It's taller than me," she said.
One youngster asked if they could go in the greenhouse, followed by a multitude of pleas to go inside. With the approval of their leader, we began the slow trek through the Tropical Room with the admonition of "Don't touch anything." We paused occasionally so they could look at the plants. I heard one of the young girls say, "These don't look real," but she was quickly assured by their leader that all the plants were, in fact, real and alive.
As we slowly progressed through the other greenhouse rooms, one of the young boys asked the perennial and inevitable question, "Where's the Venus Flytraps?"
10:00 AM. WEIU-TV interviewed me this morning about the Titan Arum blooming. The news segment will air on WEIU's Newswatch Nightcast at 9:55 PM.
5:30 PM. The inflorescence is 46.5 inches tall and 27.25 inches in circumference. Almost five more inches of vertical growth and two inches around. It's getting big!
June 2, 2010
10:00 AM. A small herd of 3-5 year olds wearing bright yellow nametags safety-pinned to their backs wandered past the greenhouse this morning with a larger goup of "handlers" in tow. They were from the EIU Child Develoment Lab across the street. I briefly spoke with the group about the Titan Arum, but I think the kids were more interested in bugs and twigs and pebbles on the ground than the largest flowering plant in the world.
11:00 AM. I was interviewed by the Times-Courier/Journal Gazette and their photographer took some pictures of me and my baby. It should be in the paper tomorrow.
5:30 PM. The inflorescence is 51.5 inches tall and 30.0 inches in circumference. Five inches of vertical growth and 2.75 inches added to the circumference. The spathe is 25 inches high and the spadix is 42 inches.
The weather today was mostly overcast and cool. A relatively pleasant day in the Tropical Room by human standards, probably a little cool for the Titan Arum. The severe thunderstorm that came through last night did no damage other than knocking over the stand of broom corn in the Secret Garden. Poor babies. That was quickly remedied this morning.
7:30 PM. Regarding what to expect when the Titan Arum bloom opens:
In May 2010, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo had the second blooming of its Titan Arum. They produced a time-lapse video covering 54 hours during the bloom and when it started to close. It's available here on YouTube (Courtesy Cleveland Metroparks Zoo). Hopefully, ours will do the same.
June 3, 2010
12:00 PM. I peaked inside the spathe and it's starting to turn red. The spadix is pinker and more goosebumpy.
2:00 PM. After consulting with the experts regarding the use of a light to let people see the Titan Arum on the streaming video at night, I have decided to turn it off. There is a possibility that the 24/7 light could interfere with the night blooming mechanism and cause the spathe to only partially open and remain open more briefly than if it was dark all night.
I wonder if this is why the last bloom didn't open as far as expected and started to close at 5AM rather than stay open for most of the next day. I had provided a bright light shining on it late into the evening so people could see it if they walked past it at night. It was probably a bad idea. Now I know.
5:00 PM. The inflorescence is 56.25 inches tall and 31.0 inches in circumference. That's 4.75 inches of vertical growth and 1 inch added to the circumference. The spathe is 26 inches high and the spadix is 46.25 inches.
Some visitors have asked me what I'm doing to get it to bloom again so soon. My response is "I don't know!!! Either I'm doing something perfectly right or I'm doing something perfectly wrong." Some plants need to be root-bound before they flower. Could being root-bound in a relatively small pot stimulate the flowering urge in the Titan Arum? Could it be stressed by lack of nutrients in the soil-less mix or lack of water? How much of the equation is genetics and how much is the environment? Nature vs. nurture. There is so much variability in blooming frequency that I think something environmental needs to be triggering the flowering event. I don't know... If I put it in the ground with plenty of room for its roots to grow and provided a perfect fertilizing and watering regime, would it be a happy camper and just keep sending up leaf after leaf after leaf until it had a 200 pound tuber? I don't know.
If I could read its mind while it's growing would I hear something like, "Man, I hate this place! the pot is too small, my roots hurt. There's too much shade. He never waters me and the food tastes like doggie doodoo. I gotta get outa here!"
I don't know.
10:30 PM. I didn't get a chance to read the paper this morning, but people tell me that there was an article in the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier today. Yep, Here.
11:30 PM. A very long day today. Finally getting the chance to update the web page.
June 4, 2010
5:00 PM. The inflorescence is 60.5 inches tall and 33.0 inches in circumference. That's another 4.25 inches of vertical growth and 3.0 inches added to the circumference. Although some of the change in circumference may be due to the bract arching away. I did my best to "squish" it in to eliminate the air gap between bract and spathe. The spathe is 27.5 inches high and the spadix is 50 inches.
Comparing it with the last bloom, it looks a lot like June 16, 2008 in terms of size and degree of development. That would then put the bloom date at five days from now. First guess: Wednesday, June 9th. Ask me on Thursday, June 10th if I was right.
June 5, 2010
5:00 PM. The inflorescence is 64.5 inches tall and 35.0 inches in circumference. That's another 4 inches of vertical growth and 2 inches added to the circumference. The spathe is 28.5 inches high.
6:30 PM. I'm sitting down wind from the inflorescence and briefly detected an "off" odor in the Tropical Room earlier this afternoon and another stronger puff just now. Comparing notes with the 2008 bloom, it's possible that this one is moving ahead of "schedule." The spathe is a very dark maroon and looks like it is ready to go. The top edges of the spathe are a little brown.
The fourth of five bracts fell away this afternoon and the fifth bract may fall away tomorrow.
Comparing it with the last bloom, it looks a lot like June 18, 2008 in terms of size and degree of development. That would put the bloom date at two to three days from now. Next guess: Monday, June 7 or Tuesday, June 8. We are REALLY close!
June 6, 2010
9:30 AM. Measured the height this morning. It's now 66.5" tall. I can detect a Titan Arum aroma in the air similar to what it smelled like the day before it bloomed last time. Not death warmed over, but a distinct, funky sweet-ish ripening perfume. The spathe appears to be a little loose at the top, but the last bract is still standing. I hope it waits until tomorrow to open, but if it decides to pop this afternoon, then it'll pop this afternoon. Birthin' babies wait for nobody.
I'll keep an eye on it today, but consider this to be the first BLOOM ALERT!
12:00 PM. I'm available for live (or semi-live) chat on our web camera feed. So if you have any questions, please feel free to post them.
3:20 PM. The spathe is still snuggly gripping the spadix and the final bract is still up but very dry and flaccid. I'll stay until 8PM-ish, just in case it decides to 'git 'er done tonight. It looks like Monday or Tuesday will be the big day!
5:00 PM. The inflorescence is 67.5" tall and 36.5" in circumference. That's another 3 inches of vertical growth and 1.5 inches added to the circumference. The spathe is 30.5 inches high. The inflorescence is now exactly as tall as the 2008 bloom. The inside of the spathe is a deep, deep purple. Look at the pictures I took of the spathe interior over the past few days and watch as it deepened in color. Cool!
This one will probably be taller by six inches or so if it keeps growing at this rate and blooms Tuesday. The spathe is still tightly embracing the spadix so I don't think it will bloom tonight.
Cheryl stuck her nose next to the top of the spathe and detected the same "ripening" scent that I had detected earlier in the day. We noticed that the gaps in the corrugations of the spathe were beginning to widen in places. Comparing development with the 2008 bloom, it looks similar to June 18 or 19, 2008 which would put the bloom opening at two-ish days from today.
8:15 PM. Final touchy-feely test before going home for "lunch." *sigh* Spathe is a little looser around the midsection than this morning but the top of the spathe is still tight against the spadix. I don't think it'll bloom tonight.
June 7, 2010
7:45 AM. This morning when I arrived at the greenhouse and went inside, the Tropical Room was filled with the pleasant aroma of a ripening Titan Arum and a fly was sitting on top of the spadix.
9:00 AM. Measured the inflorescence for maybe the last time. The inflorescence was 68.5" tall and 37.0" in circumference. The spathe was 31.0" tall. Growth has pretty much come to a halt and I anticipate it could, with high probability, bloom this afternoon. A couple more flies wandered over to investigate the spadix.
11:00 AM. No movement so far. More visitors arriving. Many gawkers on the sidewalk looking inside. :-)
1:46 PM. No movement so far.
A little while ago I started having problems with the ustream.tv video. Not only was our broadcast unavailable, but the entire ustream.tv web site apparently crashed. I couldn't even log in to my account. At first I thought it must be my computer, but after trying to connect to the video on four other computers, I discovered it's not just me. A number of greenhouse visitors said they were also having problems connecting to ustream.tv. I contacted EIU ITS. They were also unable to connect to ustream.tv and said that the problem isn't on our end. Our network is operating normally. The problem is on the ustream.tv end. I don't know what their problem is or how long it will last.
Due to the (hopefully) temporary loss of the video feed, I will post more frequent updates via this web site and Twitter. Hopefully the problem isn't major and they will fix it soon. Hang loose... I'm spazzing enough for everybody. Technology is wonderful... WHEN it works. Aaaaargh! :-)
2:15 PM. Ustream.tv is back up again. Whew! That was exciting! And it wasn't my fault!
The sky is now a dark overcast and the temperature has dropped to 76F. I have a feeling that the spathe would have started opening by now if it was going to bloom today. I'll be hanging around until 8PM if it doesn't open today. The final bract is juuuuuust about to fall away, indicating "one to two days" before it blooms.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is showers and thunderstorms. Bring a bumbershoot or raincoat. If we do experience a severe thunderstorm, the greenhouse is not a good place to be. The first floor hallway of the Life Science Building next door is the designated storm shelter. The last time this bloomed we had a severe thunderstorm come through that tipped semis over on Fourth Street, blew down trees and telephone poles around campus and took out an ash tree next to the greenhouse. THAT was exciting!
5:15 PM. There has been a flurry of activity. There were a couple hundred visitors today, appearing in wave after wave after wave.
Today's measurements: 69.5" tall, 37.5" in circumference, 31.0" spathe and 11.5" peduncle. Only two inches taller than yesterday, but now taller than the last bloom.
There have been occasional puffs of "rancid" odors this afternoon. The spathe is a little looser than this morning, but nothing to write home about. The last bract fell away this afternoon. I don't think it will bloom tonight. Maybe tomorrow (?) Wednesday for sure!
June 8, 2010
12:00 PM. Measured the inflorescence this morning just in case it decided to bloom this afternoon. The inflorescence is 70.5" tall, 38.5" in circumference and the spathe is 31.5" tall. For those of you who are REALLY interested, the peduncle is 11.5" tall.
No movement in the spathe so far today. However, the fact that it is about 1.5" larger around than yesterday suggests that it is filling out a bit.
4:00 PM. The later it gets in the afternoon, the less likely it is to bloom today. It has been quite cool and overcast throughout much of the day. That could be slowing the development a bit. I will stick around until 8PM in case it decides to surprise us yet tonight.
I hope my voice holds out.
5:30 PM. Measured the inflorescence. It is 71.0" tall, 38.5" in circumference, the spathe is 31.5" tall and the peduncle is holding its own at 11.5". Only one and a half inches of vertical growth in the last 24 hours means it is about ready to pop. I expect it to bloom tomorrow, beginning in the early afternoon if it follows the path of the last bloom and opens two days after the last bract drops. I don't think it has the stamina to wait until Thursday. I don't think I have the stamina to wait until Thursday. Today's word was KAFEEEEEN!
June 9, 2010
8:00 AM. Washed my Titan Arum T-shirt this morning after wearing it two days. It was starting to stink.
11:00 AM. Measured the inflorescence this morning. The inflorescence is 72.0" tall, 39.0" in circumference and the spathe is 32.0" tall. The peduncle is 12.0" tall.
The flower started "puffing" its aroma. We can all occasionally catch a whiff. Several flies have wandered by to investigate. VERY high probability it will bloom today. If so, it will start around 2PM and be fully open by 6PM. The aroma will probably fill the greenhouse by 3PM and reek until about 9PM when it will gradually dissipate.
I will keep you all informed and let you know ASAP if I have blooming confirmation this afternoon.
1:00 PM. The puffs of aroma are becoming more frequent and persistent. Everybody smells it. Several flies have been frequent visitors. One side of the spathe is getting "floppy."
Bloom Alert! I will monitor the spathe and let you know if it starts to open within the hour!
1:30 PM. BLOOM ALERT! YES! It's opening now!
6:30 PM. The spathe is about 75% open now. It seems to be a "late bloomer" in terms of the aroma. It didn't start to smell bad until right about now. The term "reek" comes to mind now. Many flies in and around the inflorescence.
11:59:59 PM June 9. Well, actually 1:15AM, but who's counting.
It was a very successful event. I would estimate about 1000 visitors showed up to see the Titan Arum bloom in person and over 8,000 virtual visitors (at last count) watched the live webcast of the event. A number of virtual visitors were in far-flung corners of the globe such as Scotland and Nome, Alaska.
The aroma took a little longer to develop than the last time it bloomed, reaching a peak intensity around 8PM and wasn't quite as potent as last time. However, the inflorescence was taller, wider and bolder colored than the 2008 bloom. I was very much impressed.
The inflorescence will still be open in the morning, but will gradually close throughout the morning and early afternoon.
The live video feed will remain up all night and for as long as I think people are still interested in watching it.
Right now I'm crawling into bed.
June 10, 2010
12:30 PM. The spathe was still fully open this morning when I came in at 9AM. It started to close within the last hour and will continue to close throughout the day. It has turned more yellow as the day progresses. I will cut a window in the side of the spathe and spadix tomorrow so people can see inside the structures.
Late last night I made a close inspection of the inflorescence. The lower outer surface of the spathe is smooth and firm, like a watermelon. Its corrugations feel a bit like cabbage. The upper fringe feels like lettuce and the inner, purple surface does appear to have a slightly "velvety" surface. Nothing that can be felt, but perhaps a bit of fuzz if you use a magnifying glass and your imagination.
The spadix was warm to the touch from top to bottom, about the same warmth as a heating pad on "low." I could feel the heat on my hand when I held it within a quarter inch or so. I explored the spadix with my fingers. The deeper reaches of the crevice were even warmer, humid, and moist to the touch with small beads of liquid covering its inner surface. I withdrew my fingers from the crevice and sampled the perfume. Instant recognition: a warm, soft, steaming pile of you-know-what. It was an aroma different than death-warmed-over, but still quite effective in drawing flies. I quickly washed my hands.
I n a few days publish my "Expedition to the equatorial jungles of central Illinois in search of the rare, blooming Titan Arum."
June 11, 2010
3:00 PM. I cut windows in the spadix and spathe so visitors can view inside the structures. The spadix has a thin wall and is hollow with a gossamer web-like fibrous matrix filling the void. The wall of the spathe is thick, like a pumpkin, but very light. Its cells are filled with air and oozed fluid as I cut through it. Inside I saw the female flowers that look like little yellow cherry thingies with burgundy stems lightly peppered with white fly eggs. Above the female flowers I saw a group of yellow bumps overhanging the female flowers, exuding long streamers of sticky pollen. These are the male flowers. Not flashy, but they get the job done. Above the male flowers is a purple structure, the base end of the spadix.
The spadix and spathe continue their inevitable decline, fading to lighter shades of yellow and becoming more flaccid and wilted. *sigh*
10:00 PM. The aroma on Wednesday night wasn't as potent as the 2008 bloom. It started later in the evening and just wasn't as deadly. For a while I was worried that this bloom would be more civilized than the last one and disappoint the visitors who came just to experience the stench. Fortunately, I received reports from visitors that the aroma pretty much covered campus Wednesday evening. There were reports of the odor north of Doudna, east of Buzzard, west of Booth Library and south down to the dorms. One of the participants in Premier Boy's State said he could smell something in his dorm room and thought it was sewer gas. Other's said the odor was like rotting fish or something nearby was rancid. It wasn't death-warmed-over, but it was noticeable.
Around 11 PM on Wednesday night a small group of people came in to see the bloom. They had apparently been out to the bars and were having just a really WONDERFUL time… One of them appeared to be rather intoxicated, tipsy, stumbling and weaving a bit, glassy eyed, but not quite to the point of slurred speech. I quickly moved between the group and the plant. If he fell forward, he would hit me first (and I was ready for it) rather than knocking over the plant. Fortunately, campus security was standing nearby, watching this episode transpire. As the group turned to leave, I gave the officer the universal hand signal for “drinky drinky.” He kept an eye on the group as they wandered off into the night.
Although I didn't quiz visitors about where they came from, Cheryl said that one couple drove 400 miles to see the bloom. I'm sure there were many who drove long distances. One person on the live chat said he had made the 3.5 hour drive to Charleston in a record time of 2.5 hours. Gee, I hope he wasn't speeding.
I was about fifteen minutes away from closing up the greenhouse on Wednesday night, when I glanced at the live chat on the streaming video page. Someone had posted the question, “How late is the greenhouse going to be open tonight?” I responded that I would be closing at midnight. The person responded, “I’m in Greenup. If I leave now, can I get in to see the flower?” I said, “Sure… Come on over.” The response, “Where’s the greenhouse?” I provided directions and continued with the business of closing up and putting things away. About thirty minutes later, two exuberant, breathless ladies trotted up to the window on the south side of the brightly-lit greenhouse. I knew they were from Greenup by the broad smiles on their faces. So I let them in… Both were ecstatic. One said she had signed up for ustream just so she could ask me that question in live chat. They took a lot of pictures and one said her husband thought they were heading off on a wild goose chase… Going to a greenhouse in Charleston after midnight to see a giant flower in bloom… Yeah... right... So she took a picture of the flower with her cell phone and immediately sent it to her husband in an email to prove it. No wild goose chase Honey. They were both very grateful that I had stayed open late for them and I was happy to do it.
June 12, 2010
4:00 PM. The spadix and spathe continue their decline. The spadix is leaning over and feels like a rubber chicken.
6:18 PM. As I was sitting here in the greenhouse, alone with my baby, the spadix slowly took its last breath and toppled over. Tears filled my eyes and I choked up. My baby's gone.
A group of visitors arriving shortly thereafter were probably wondering why I was sitting here with tears streaming down my face and choking up while I answered their questions. I'm just an emotional kind of guy, that's all.
But the show must go on. The video feed will remain up until Monday morning (or longer). I just googled "corpse flower" and our ustream video is ranked #3 on the list, just below two Wikipedia entries. Way Cool!
When will it bloom again? I don't know. It could be another two years or ten years. We will just have to wait and see.
Live streaming video. I used ustream.tv to provide streaming video as the event unfolded (literally and figuratively). Live chat on the ustream screen was a very valuable tool in providing instant updates to viewers regarding bloom status and answering questions from the audience. Ustream also provided a way to record the broadcast so I could turn it into a time-lapse. There were some bugs that needed to be worked out at the beginning, but the broadcast went relatively smoothly.
One major problem occurred when the ustream web site crashed and was down for a half hour on June 7. Our video broadcast also stopped another time for some reason, but I was able to restart it. Another failure occurred when I was recording the second three-hour segment. Even though I had the record button on, only 90 seconds was recorded. So, no time-lapse. The hazards of working in the cloud.
However, overall it was a grand success. There were a total of about 15,000 views over the week as this event unfolded. More than 350 viewers were watching right after I announced on live chat that the bloom was opening. This dropped to 200-250 viewers as the bloom continued to open and remained at that level for the rest of the day. Viewership then dropped into the 100s the day after the bloom opened and continued to decline over the next few days.
Viewers from around the world were watching. Based on responses in the live chat window, Scotland ranks as the farthest world viewer and Nome, Alaska as the farthest U.S. viewer. Although there was somebody trying to chat with Asian characters, I was unable to determine if this person was from Japan, China or Korea.
Twitter. I used Twitter to send 52 updates to 29 followers. Thanks to all of the followers who retweeted.
Facebook. I did not have time to create a Facebook page for the event. But I heard that the event was all over the place on Facebook, especially links to the streaming video. Maybe next time I’ll Facebook.
Google. I googled “corpse flower” at 2AM Sunday morning and noticed that our ustream video was listed third behind Wikipedia’s two listings. I’ll look at google-analytics soon to get an idea of how many hits our web-site and video stream got.
News. Articles about the blooming were in the Daily Eastern News, Journal-Gazette, Times Courier and Decatur Herald. WEIU, WCIA and WICD broadcast stories about the bloom. I heard we were mentioned on National Public Radio as well.
JG-TC June 3 Rare plant at EIU surprises, expected to bloom next week
JG-TC June 9 About-to-bloom rare plant at EIU draws fans, fund-raisers.
JG-TC June 9 ‘Cool and stinky’
One failure of mine was in not providing enough information to those who don’t have a computer or Internet access and rely on local newspapers. A number of these valuable visitors said they didn’t know where the greenhouse was or where they could park or that handicap parking was reserved in front of the greenhouse. Next time I will have the local newspapers include a map showing the greenhouse location and parking info with the article(s) about the impending bloom.
June 13, 2010
7:00 PM. The spadix continued to droop and the spathe has wilted considerably. However, the peduncle continues to be solid, firm and erect.
I would like to thank the following people who assisted with this event:
Cheryl Laursen, Gary Bulla and Brenda Knotts. All are Biology Department faculty members who helped answer visitor questions regarding the titan arum. Michelle Wheeler who organized and supervised the Charleston High School Band fundraiser, as well as Sam Wheeler, Jessie Wheeler and Vance Bollinger who endured the heat, humidity and malodorous atmosphere to sell munchies, drinks and souvenir titan arum flowers made from yarn.
This morning I felt a whole lot like the way the inflorescence looks. Whew. I’m completely drained of energy, physically worn out and emotionally exhausted. My brain just did NOT want to crawl out of bed today. It was as though I spent three weeks in labor and finally gave birth to a 45 pound, 72 inch baby.
I was going to finish writing the story of this adventure today, but I have no brain cells left. It will have to wait until later in the week. If you enjoyed the story of how The Velvet Queen was named, I think you’ll enjoy this story.
Instead of working on the tale, I pulled weeds in The Secret Garden today... all day. Yes, The Secret Garden. What? You didn’t know we had a secret garden? Well, if I told you about it then it wouldn’t be a secret. :-)
Between the greenhouse and Life Science building is a garden area that I’ve been developing over the past seven years. The garden currently has fourteen themed areas and about seventy one designs with over 450 species and cultivars (not counting weeds). It has full-sun, part-sun and full-shade gardens. There are perennials, annuals, natives, raised beds, container gardens, ground covers and terraced gardens. (Nearly) all of the plants are labeled. Every year it just keeps getting better and better. I think you’ll fall in love with the garden when you see it. Come by and visit! But Shhh! Don’t tell anyone…it’s a secret garden.
June 14, 2010
9:00 PM. The spathe and spadix continue to wilt. There is nothing left to document until the inflorescence collapses, dries and is removed to the compost pile.
Images of the inflorescence end today. Since viewership of the live broadcast is nil, I will pull the plug Tuesday morning and move my office back to my office where it is AIR CONDITIONED! To all of you out there who watched, Thank you. :-)
I really do appreciate all of you who took the time to either watch this event on the Internet or wander over to the greenhouse to get a good look at the inflorescence. Thank you for helping make this a successful event.
June 16, 2010
9:00 PM. I moved the dying inflorescence back to its normal spot where it can enjoy some well-earned rest. The spadix is now covered with gray fungal fuzz and the female flowers are showing signs of decay. The spathe is also continuing to decay. Its light, sponge-like structure is drying out and gray fungal fuzz has covered its fringe. The peduncle is also becoming softer. The jungle has begun to reclaim the room.
I finished writing a short essay describing my experiences with the titan arum bloom. Its working title was "Expedition to the equatorial jungles of central Illinois in search of the rare, blooming Titan Arum" but I ran short of words in the essay and had to borrow some from the title. I hope you don't mind that I shortened the title to "The Titan Arum Adventure." Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story.
The Titan Arum Adventure
June 30, 2010
The inflorescence is completely dead and fell off of the tuber this morning. After the tuber and substrate dry a bit more, I'll take the tuber out of the pot, weight it, and return it to the pot with fresh substrate.