Visitors at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens had the opportunity to view Morty the corpse flower on Aug. 8. The flower, which consumes the picture, was 7 ˝ feet tall when it opened. The rare plants blooms only once every six to 10 years.
“It was like waiting for a child to be born,” said David J. Swartz, president of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, “but when it came, it was absolutely beautiful.”
Swartz was talking about Morty the corpse flower, which finally opened in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, Aug. 8. The giant flower was 7 ˝ feet tall, but what this rare plant is best known for is its smell. It smells like rotting meat.
To the relief of many, the smell wasn’t very strong. Morty was displayed in a large open area, so the smell dissipated. Plus, the smell is stronger at night than it is during the day.
People who wanted to get the full sensory experience took advantage of the Botanical Gardens’ extended hours—on Friday and Saturday, the last admission ticket was sold at 11 p.m.
Record crowds visited the Botanical Gardens to see Morty. The previous record for an evening event had been set at 1,900 visitors on the last day of Night Lights, the popular February event where folks can see the plants lit with colorful lights. When Morty bloomed, almost 2,300 people visited on Friday evening, then the record was broken again on Saturday evening with 2,600 visitors, Swartz said.
During the summer, the Botanical Gardens gets roughly 800 visitors a week, or 1,600 visitors in two weeks. In the 15 days that Morty was on display, there were almost 10,000 visitors, he said.
While many of the people who went to the Botanical Gardens when it opened Friday morning were there specifically to see Morty, I chatted with Lindy Hatfield from Dallas, Texas who didn’t know about our corpse flower until she arrived.
“I was lucky enough to walk into this,” Hatfield said as she walked past several TV and radio reporters. “It’s just one of those wonderful surprises. I’ve read about corpse flowers—never thought I’d see one!”
Even though lines were often an hour long, people didn’t mind the wait because the line went through the other buildings and people could view exhibits along the way. In addition, volunteers were on hand to supply interesting facts about Morty to the waiting visitors.
The corpse flower or Amorphophallus titanum is native to the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. It gives off its distinctive smell in order to attract flies and beetles to pollinate the plant. There were plenty of flies buzzing around Morty, and if it was pollinated, a fruit will appear.
The plants go through various stages over the years. The plant will be dormant, then go into a vegetative stage during which it grows one giant leaf. It goes through a number of these cycles before it finally blooms. That happens only once every six to 10 years.
Morty grew from one of three corms, or bulbs, that the Botanical Gardens recently purchased. One of the remaining corms is dormant, but the other is budding. The bud is only 4 or 5 inches tall, Swartz said when I talked to him on Aug. 13, and it isn’t on display yet. Everyone is waiting to see if the bud will be a leaf or another amazing flower.
Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com
, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.