A rare tropical plant, the titan arum, is producing its first flower following six and a half years of vegetative growth in Eastern Illinois University’s H.F. Thut Greenhouse.
The titan arum, which produces the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, is on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.
The plant is also sometimes called the carrion flower or the corpse flower, as the flowers produce a scent similar to rotting meat.
The university is preparing for large crowds to view and photograph the flowering plant. The greenhouse has extended its hours to from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. On the day the plant blooms, expected to be around June 21, the greenhouse will stay open until midnight. It is visible through the window on the south side of the greenhouse when the greenhouse is closed.
A page has been created on the EIU Department of Biological Sciences' Web site to provide daily updates and images of the flower as it develops: www.eiu.edu/biology/news/titan_arum.htm. A map to the greenhouse (just north of the Life Sciences Building) is available on the page, as well.
Steven Malehorn, manager of Thut Greenhouse, has tended to the titan arum since it was planted. He's never witnessed a flowering titan arum before; in fact, it's so rare, not many people have.
The plant, discovered in 1878, grows wild only in the tropical forests of Sumatra. It first flowered in cultivation in London in 1889; since then, more than 100 cultivated flowers have blossomed.
EIU obtained the seed in 2001. Its "grandparent" seeds were collected in 1993 from the only titan arum found in fruit during a BBC expedition filming "The Private Lives of Plants." The seeds were distributed to U.S. and British conservatories and greenhouses for cultivation.
The bud on EIU's plant first started coming up in April following the plant's regular six-month dormancy, Malehorn said. He originally thought it would be a leaf, like the 20-foot-by-15-foot one that appeared last year.For more information, please contact Malehorn at firstname.lastname@example.org, 217-581-3126 (Department of Biological Sciences' main office, Monday through Friday), or 217-581-2513 (greenhouse).