Titan Arum 2016

July 1, 2016.  There is still some residual perfume in the air.  The inflorescence continues to wither.  The spathe is nearly closed up (as far as it can) again.  Over the next week or so the spadix will gradually wilt and eventually collapse.  When it does, two things will happen.  1) The collapsing spadix will fold the top of the spathe over like an envelope, sealing the chamber where the fruit will develop within a protective coccoon.  However, no fruit will develop, because the flowers have not been pollinated.  2)  The live streaming video feed will end.  No sense watching a dead flower rot... Unless you're into that kind of thing.

Then, over the next several of weeks, what's left of the inflorescence will gradually collapse and hang over the side of the container.  When the inflorescence detaches from the tuber, I'll gently move it with tremendous respect to the compost pile.  *sniff, sniff, wipes tears from his eyes*  Thank you Velvet Queen for all you have done.

We had about 600 visitors physically attend the fifth blooming of the Velvet Queen and about 4,250 watching live via streaming video.  What a week!

A number of visitors asked me if the plant was carnivorous.  Does it eat the flies?  No.  It's not carnivorous.  It just fools the flies into flying to it as pollinators.

A family with two young boys visited yesterday.  The boys were very inquisitive about the plant, trying to get as close to it as possible to touch it.  At that moment their mother asked me what I feed the plant, so I said, "I feed it small children."  You should have seen the eyes of the young boys.  Their eyes opened as wide as dinner plates... until they got the joke.  We all had a good laugh.

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June 30, 2016.  9:00 A.M. The bloom is still open and it smells only a little.  Here are some photographic highlights from last night's bloom.

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7:30 P.M. Only two hours of sleep last night and I've been talking constantly since 8 A.M. this morning. I'm tired and going home to crawl into bed.  The greenhouse will be open Friday from 4 P.M. to 7 P.M.  See you tomorrow.

June 29, 2016.  7:30 A.M.  Brrr.  It was 60 degrees in the greenhouse when I stopped by at 5:30 this morning.  Hopefully, last night's relatively cool temperatures won't affect the bloom, other than to maybe push it back a day.

Good news everyone! Out of about 101,000 results, we are number two on Google Search for "Corpse Flower Blooming," just below the Wikipedia link.  Woo Hoo!  We're FAMOUS!

3:30 P.M.  The last bract is a crispy-critter and fell away earlier today.  This means it will bloom in one to two days.  Which puts it on Thursday (or Friday if she's ornery).  I'll stay late this evening just-in-case she wants to annoy everyone and bloom late today.  Consider this to be the second bloom alert.

Just measured the height.  96 inches.    Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!    Eight feet tall!  And 52 inches around.

4:30 P.M.  A visitor just mentioned briefly detecting an "off" odor in the air.  Hmmm...  Unfortunately, my sense of smell is poor enough that I can't detect occasional, brief puffs of perfume.  Occasionally puffing perfume is a sign that it will probably bloom either today or tomorrow.  I stuck my nose up against the spadix and sniffed.  It smells sort of arm pit ripe, but not too nasty.

The next developmental milestone is when the spathe starts to loosen up and open.  That's when it blooms!  I'll be checking for a floppy spathe until about 10 pm today.  Then I'm going home.  If it blooms later tonight after I've gone home, well, tough luck...

6:00 PM.  Uh oh!  Floppy spathe and visitors begin to smell an "off odor."  Bloom Warning!  Confirmed! Opening now!  Greenhouse will be open until midnight.


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7:30 P.M.  Bloom is progressing smoothly.  Slowly opening up.

12:50 A.M.  Greenhouse will be open from 9 A.M. until 6 P.M Thursday.  Bloom should still be open until noon-ish, but don't quote me on it.  More pictures to come.  Tired.  Going home.  TTFN.


June 28, 2016.  9:30 A.M.  Not surprised that it didn't bloom yesterday "on schedule."  However we still have the "plus two days" window in our favor.  I measured the height this morning and it grew only 1.5 inches since yesterday evening.  When its growth slows to less than two inches per day, that's a good sign that it is within two days of blooming.  Still waiting for the last bract to fall away.

1:00 PM.  The spathe is ultra-ultra-maroon and appears ready to go.  The final, and largest, bract has pretty much wilted, but has not become a crispy-critter and fallen away yet. I measured the height and there is no difference from this morning's measurement.  It is still 92.5 inches tall.  So, the vertical growth has dropped below 2 inches per day and the bract looks like it could fall away tomorrow, which means it will *probably* bloom either tomorrow or Thursday.  So, consider this to be the first bloom alert.  It should bloom within the next two days.

6:30 PM.  93 inches tall and 51 inches in circumference.  With only two inches of height gain and half an inch*  1.5 inches in girth, I'd say this puppy is ready to pop!  The last bract is almost a crispy-critter and I expect it to fall away either tonight or tomorrow.  These signs all point to it blooming in a day or two.  Maybe not tomorrow, but my money is on Thursday, June 30.

My resident spring peeper hiding in the Tropical Room corner is starting to serenade me again this evening.

This afternoon I noticed a small brown bat hanging on the wall of the Life Science Annex.  Very unusual.  It did not seem bothered by people walking by.  I didn't know if it was there because it was injured, sick, lost or tired, but I thought it best to have Animal Control remove it as a precautionary measure...  It's gone now.

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* Fuzzy math.
 

June 27, 2016.  91 inches tall and 49.5 inches in circumference.  It looks like we will exceed eight feet!  The spathe's interior is ultra-maroon and the second to last bract has fallen away.  The last bract has withered and could fall tomorrow. Still waiting for the last bract to fall and growth to slow down to less than 2 inches per day before expected bloom.

Folks, we are now in the blooming ballpark.  It could go anytime in the next few days.  Watchful waiting.  The suspense is KILLING me. *sigh*

The inflorescence is tall enough that I had to trim away some of the Bunya-Bunya tree branches and back up almost to the wall to get it all in the picture from the west side.

For a little while this morning I briefly smelled a bit of a "rotting flesh" odor.  I discovered the odor was coming from the Stapelia variegata (Carrion flower) blooming in the next room.  I banished the plant to the back room out of sight and out of smell.

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June 26, 2016.  86 inches tall and 46 inches in circumference.  Officially the largest bloom in EIU history!

Over the past two days, I had to tilt the video camera up twice to keep from clipping off the top of the spadix.

Made it rain this afternoon by watering the garden.  It worked!  The sky turned dark a few minutes ago, wind picked up, lightning flashed, thunder boomed and the rain descended in buckets.  Torrential downpour!  I love the sound of rain on the greenhouse roof... as long as it isn't accompanied by the pitter patter of golfball-size hail.

I had to turn on the fluorescent lights to take today's pictures.  That's why the color looks a little funky.

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June 25, 2016.  81.5 inches tall and 43.5 inches in circumference.  Record height and still growing six inches per day!  Yowza!  Expecting a record girth too.  Current girth record is 45 inches.

The inflorescence is now too tall to measure, even from the top of a six-foot ladder, which was a precarious perch at best. So I built a henweigh to measure height with my feet firmly planted on the ground.  What's a henweigh you say?  Glad you asked... about 22 pounds...    (hint: it photobombed today's picture)

The interior surface of the spathe continues to blushy-blushy.  Nowhere near maroon, much less ultra-maroon yet.

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June 24, 2016.  75.5 inches tall and 41* inches in circumference.  Expecting record height tomorrow!

I noticed a slight blush on the inner surface of the spathe this afternoon.  Sooo... based on previous blooms, it should open in six-ish days.  That would make June 30-ish plus or minus two days the new target date.

Visitors have asked me what to expect when it blooms.  Here's the best case scenario:

When it blooms, the spathe will begin to open in the early to mid afternoon.  The spathe will be fully open by around 6PM.  Then the spadix begins to produce its perfume.  The spadix heats up to human body temperature and is most stinky between about 8PM and midnight.  After midnight-ish, the spadix is done doing its thing and the odor subsides.  The spathe remains open all night.  The next morning, the spathe begins to decline, wilt and close up again beginning around 9AM-ish.  By about noon to 1PM-ish, it has done all its going to doodoo.

So if you come to see it the day after it blooms, it will already be closing up and you will have missed the big event.  :-(  That morning I will cut a window in the side of the spathe so visitors can view the male and female flowers directly and a window in the side of the spadix so visitors can see what's inside (hint: it's hollow, like a rubber chicken).


Here's the worst case scenario:

The inflorescense begins to open late in the evening after I've gone home.  I come in the next morning and discover that it has already done its thing.  Although, based on this plant's history, this is not a highly probable outcome, there is a possibility it could happen.  It has happened with blooms at other greenhouses before, but I don't see it happening here.  *knocks on wood*


Here's the worst-worst case scenario:

The bloom stops developing, doesn't open, and then collapses.  This has happened with some blooms at other greenhouses.  I just don't even want to think about it...


I can therefore give no promises about when (or if) it will bloom.

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* Oops, while I was taking great pains to measure the circumference at the same place on the bracts each day (from the bract side), when I looked at the exposed, developing spathe this afternoon, I noticed that the spathe's widest point had moved upward four inches and I was no longer measuring the widest girth.  My bad.  So, the spathe's girth did not suddenly grow 4.5 inches overnight.  I moved my measuring point up to the widest girth, and now it is what it is.


June 23, 2016.  69.5 inches tall and 35.5 inches in circumference.  Wow! 7.5 inches of growth! The record is 76 inches.  Shirley, I can see us eclipsing that record height this year.  Still no spathe blushing tho.

Harrumph.

That means we are more than six days away from blooming.  Countdown is on hold while we wait for blush to be delivered.

While we are waiting...

I found a spring peeper sitting on the sidewalk between the greenhouse and garden yesterday afternoon while watering the garden.  I said to the peep, "You know you're going to get smooshed if you sit there on the sidewalk."  So I nudged him toward the garden and heard him peep'n away as I watered the garden.

"Whoop-ee-ti-yi-o get along little froggie,
It's your misfortune and not of my own.
Whoop-ee-ti-yi-o get along little froggie,
You know that my-garden will be your new home."

With profound apologies to Roy Rogers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2cFji4CmHE

This morning the peep paid me a visit in the greenhouse.  Hiding in the corner of the Tropical Room, I heard him going peep, peep, peep. 

Either that was the peeper or a cricket on steroids going CHIRP, CHIRP, CHIRP!

 

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June 22, 2016. 62 inches tall and 32 inches in circumference. 

A number of additional developmental milestones need to pass before it blooms.  1) The inner surface of the spathe turns dark marroon. 2) The outermost bract falls away. 3) The spadix slows its growth to less than 2 inches per day. 4) The spadix starts briefly "puffing" its odor occasionally as it gets ready to do its thing.

I looked at the data from previous blooms and calculated the average time between various developmental milestones and blooming.  From 20 inches tall, it required 17.5 days. When the spadix emerged it took 10.5 days. When the spathe's inner surface first "blushed," it took 6 days. When the outermost bract fell away, it took 1.5 days and when the spadix started to "puff," it bloomed that day or the next day.

My original guesstimate regarding when this flower should bloom was June 27 plus or minus two days.

The 20 inch tall milestone would place the bloom on June 27.5.
Spadix emergence would place the bloom on June 28.5.

The spathe is still green on the inside, so we are still at least a week away.  If the spathe starts to "blush" tommorrow, it would mean the flower should bloom on June 29-ish.

The spadix has developed a slight pinkish tint.  It's growing 4-, 5-, 6-inches per day so far. Looking at previous growth data, it appears that when daily vertical growth drops to around 1.5 to 1.75 inches, it pops within a day or two.  So I'll be paying more attention to it as its growth slows. I'm hoping for at least 72 inches tall.

As the plant revs up its engines to send out its roadkill aroma, there will be occasional "puffs" of odor the day before and the morning of it blooming.  You may be able to notice it if you place your nose close to the spadix and take a whiff.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't have a good sense of smell.  So I will rely on those around me to sniff it out.

Some visitors have asked me how potent the odor is in the greenhouse when it blooms.  Well, if you're standing right next to it when it is in full stink mode, it's potent enough that you can actually TASTE it in the air.  :-)  Been there, done that.

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June 21, 2016.  56 inches tall, 30 inches in circumference.

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June 20, 2016.  50 inches tall, 28 inches in circumference, and growing like a weed!

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June 19, 2016.  The bud is 45 inches tall and 25.5 inches in circumference.

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June 18, 2016.  The bud is 41 inches tall and 24 inches in circumference.  The spadix and spathe were peeking out the side of the bud between bracts this morning.  The spadix emerged this afternoon.  Woo Hoo!

Based on previous blooms, this means it should open in ten to eleven days.

 

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June 17, 2016.  9:00 AM.  This morning I was asked how to tell the difference between a leaf bud and a flower bud.  Well, I took pictures of the Titan Arum's leaf bud and flower bud back in 2010.  Leaf buds are more slender than flower buds as shown in the image below.

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6:30 PM 
The bud is 38.5 inches tall and 22 inches in circumference.  No sign of the spadix -- yet --.  Hopefully it will continue to develop into a GIANT inflorescence.  Grow! Grow! Grow!

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June 16, 2016.  The bud is 35.5 inches tall and 20.5 inches in circumference.

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June 15, 2016.  The bud is 33 inches tall and 19 inches in circumference.  The pace is picking up!

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A big, bad thunderstorm rumbled through this afternoon.  I was hoping for a good drenching, but all we got was just enough rain to wet the pavement and a sprinkling of pea-sized hail.  Folks a couple miles north of us felt the brunt of the severe storm with overturned semi-trailers, downed trees and powerlines.

The heat index was over 100 degrees before the storm hit.  At least the storm cooled us off for a few hours, but its back to hotandhoomid.

The live video feed is up and running.  Not much to see yet, unless you like watching grass grow or paint dry.


June 14, 2016.  10:30 AM. Had a bit of a scare yesterday evening as I was taking pictures of the bud.  I saw a little pip at the top of the bud I had never seen on previous blooms.  I was like, "what is that?"  "Is it a leaf poking out the top?"  "Did I misread the signs and now it's going to be a leaf, not a bloom?" 

                                                        PANIC! SPAZ-ON!

I just sent out the press release that it's going to bloom!  What if it isn't going to bloom?  Calm down.  Wait until the morning to see what develops before spazing any more.

This morning I discovered that the little pip was just a fragment of a torn bract.  NOT an emerging leaf.

                                                      ...Spaz-off...

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The spadix should emerge June 16 or 17 and show it is an inflorescence and not a leaf (I hope).

6:30 PM  The bud is 29.5 inches tall and 17.5 inches in circumference. 

We had a cold front with thunderstorms move through this afternoon, cooling us down considerably.  Unfortunately, we didn't get any rain out of it.  Had to water the gardens.  :-(

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June 13, 2016.  The bud is 27 inches tall and 16 inches in circumference.

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June 12, 2016.  The bud is 24 inches tall and 14 inches in circumference.  The greenhouse will be open from 4PM to 7PM daily for the duration if you want to venture inside.  Otherwise, the developing bud can be seen through the window on the south side of the greenhouse.

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June 11, 2016.  The bud is 23 inches tall and 14 inches in circumference.  Super hot in the greenhouse.  93 degrees outside, 103 degrees inside.  Great growing conditions for a certain tropical plant, but not for people.  Side vents open, ridge vents open, fans blasting away.  It will take me a little time to acclimate to the heat.


June 10, 2016.  The bud is officially 20 inches tall, growing about an inch per day.  WooHoo!  We now have a measurement comparable to the last four blooms.  Soooo, based on current averaged calculations, I expect it to bloom at 2:30 PM on Monday, June 27, plus or minus two days.

 

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June 6, 2016.  The bud is 16 inches tall.  Waiting for twenty inches.

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June 4, 2016.  The bud is 14 inches tall.  It's growing about an inch per day.  So, in another week-ish it will be 20 inches tall which will then place it beween two and three weeks to bloom based on previous ones.  That means it will possibly bloom sometime between June 25 and July 4.


June 1, 2016
.  The bud is 11 inches tall and is beginning to look more roundish as can be seen in the picture below.  Here's hoping!  When it reaches 20 inches tall, I will be better able to tell if/when it will bloom.

Anyway, I started putting together the equipment for a live feed to Ustream and grabbed an old computer to use with a webcam as the video source.  Using Firefox, I tried to log in to Ustream, and Firefox said "Error logging in.  Try again."  Since I was able to log in from another computer just fine, I thought something must be wrong with the computer.   Hmmm.  After multiple tries to log in with the same error message, I thought I better check to see what version of Firefox I was using during my attempts to log in...  Version 12.  Oh.  That's why.  What's the current version?" 46.  Update, update, update.  Then try to log in.  ogin orks ine.

Tested the live video feed and it works.  I should have it up and running soon, but for now, nothing to see here.  Move along, move along.

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May 23, 2016.  The bud is 6 inches tall and has just poked its little head out of the soil to say "Hello World!"  I'm still not sure whether it is going to bloom or not.  We will just have to wait until it gets a bit bigger.


May 8, 2016.
  The bud is 3 inches tall.  It hasn't emerged from the soil yet, so I have to dig down to measure its height.  The weather is overcast, cool and rainy outside, but nice and toasty warm inside the greenhouse.

We will probably have to wait until it is about 20 inches tall before we can determine if it is going to bloom or put up another leaf.  In the past, when it has produced an inflorescence, it has grown relatively rapidly.  When it has produced a leaf, it has grown much more slowly.  So, if it grows quickly, it is more evidence that it could be blooming this time around.


May 1, 2016.
  The 2012 clones are growing nicely.  I gave the clone named "Snowball" to the University of Illinois last year.  The three remaining clones went dormant late last fall.  The tubers "Hardrock," "Coco" and "Joe" weighed 496g, 700g, and 544g, respectively when I transferred them from 2-gallon to 5-gallon pots.  The clones started growing again in January.  They're getting bigger!  They should bloom in about six or seven years if I annoy them enough.


April 24, 2016. 
The tuber broke dormancy last week and is now showing definite signs of growing again.  The bud is about two inches tall.  The plant went dormant in mid January (about four months later than in the past).  I suspect the reason why it spent more time in the leaf phase this time around is that I transferred the tuber to a much larger container where it was much happier growing.  Hopefully, not tooooo happy since I theorize that it blooms when it is unhappy.

I replaced most of the old media in the container this afternoon and attempted to oomph the tuber out of its container to weigh it.  Unfortunately, it was too heavy to oomph and it still had a significant number of roots holding it in place.  Rather than risk damaging it simply to weigh it, I left it in place and measured it with a yardstick.  The tuber is 28" in diameter and 9" thick.


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OK, let's do some number crunching and see if we can figure out when my baby is going to pop.

The table below shows how many days elapsed from each milestone until the day it bloomed in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.  The 2016 values are my projections for the current bloom IF it develops at the same rate as the four previous blooms.

Table 1.  Titan Arum developmental milestones in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Year Broke dormancy 20" tall Spadix emerged 20" to bloom Bud to bloom Day of Bloom
2008 ? June 5 June 11 16 days   June 21
2010 ? May 22 May 28 18 days   June 9
2012 ? June 16 June 15 15 days   July 1
2014 May 18 June 22 July 1 19 days 54 days July 11
2016 April 24 ? ? ? 52-56 days* June 17*


* Guesstimated values.

So, what does this data suggest?  The data show that the previous blooms opened between 15 and 19 days after the bud reaching 20 inches tall.  The 2014 bloom opened 54 days after it broke dormancy.  Therefore, I guess the current inflorescence (IF there is a current inflorescence) to bloom around June 17.