Monday, March 19, 2012

Cornell's Corpse Plant

I visited the "Corpse Plant" today, along with hundreds of other visitors.  It is estimated that about 1000 have come to view this unique flower.  Copied below is information from the Cornell Horticulture site.

While I was there, they were artificially pollinating the flowers inside the large modified leaf (red).  There are both male and female flowers at the base, but the artificial pollination is to secure potential pollination and perhaps add some genetic variation.  It DID smell, but it was exciting to see.

“Amorphophallus titanum is native to the rainforests of Suma- tra, Indonesia, where it is can be found on slopes and hillsides along the edges of the forest. Not only is it uncommon in nature, but it flowers only rarely. In cultivation, it generally takes 7-10 years to bloom, and may die or flower only rarely thereafter.
For example, one specimen at Kew Botanic Garden in England flowered in 1889 and did not flower again until 1926!
What looks like an individual flower is actually a group of flow- ers called an inflorescence. The bell-shaped structure is a modi- fied leaf (spathe) that is green on the outside, but deep red-purple on the inside. The column-like structure (spadix) is mostly sterile tissue that is used to diffuse the scent throughout the forest to attract pollinators. The actual flowers are very small and located at the base of this column, hidden by the modified leaf. There
are about 450 female flowers in a ring at the base, and 500-1,000 male flowers above them.
What’s that smell?
When the flowers are ready for pollination, the spadix emits a nauseating scent meant to attract carrion flies, which are attract- ed to rotting meat. The female flowers open first, and are only receptive for one day. Then the male flowers open to provide pollen for one day. If pollination is successful, bright red fruits are formed. In the wild, these are eaten by giant Hornbill birds, which help to disperse the seeds.
After two days, the inflorescence begins to collapse. The plant then sends up a single gigantic leaf about 16 ft. tall, which will produce sugars and starches to be stored in the tuber. It goes dormant for 3-7 months, after which the plant will send up another leaf. Eventually another inflorescence emerges, growing upwards at a rate of some 4 inches per day.”
People waiting in line to see the flower

Pollinating the flowers which are inside this large red modified leaf

Inside the leaf with artificial pollination

The tiny flowers are at the bottom

This is the plant

Here are some photos I was able to capture while angling through the crowd.


  1. The flower is beautiful! The color and texture are so rich. Thanks for standing in line, Nancy. Your photos are awesome!

    1. Glad you like them. It is an awesome plant.

  2. Thanks for taking pics that are both informative and artistic (and lacking the smell). I saw this plant at a conservatory somewhere in Europe a number of years ago. It was a little past it's prime and the lighting was not sufficient for natural light photography (they must have transported the plant into a head-house for viewing. I do vaguely remember that there was a strong aroma of vomit in the room so that I held my breath as long as I could before I could get out of range.

  3. The smell was not bad on the second day when I took these pictures. The room was so crowded with spectators that one could ignore any smell for the privilege of seeing the flower.

  4. Wow, it's amazingly huge. Spectacular.