Debbie Grazen, left, and Samantha Grazen get photos of the corpse flower on Tuesday at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The flower’s phenomenal growth is documented by the measuring stick at the right. It was five inches taller on Tuesday than it had been the day before.
It could be happening right now. The corpse flower at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens could be blooming.
Whether the flower is open or not, you should visit the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo, to see this unusual plant. It blooms only every 6-to-10 years, so it’s hard to say when you’ll get another chance.
The corpse flower, or Amorphophallus titanum, is known for its horrible stench, which smells like rotting flesh. While that may not sound attractive to you, it is attractive to flies and carrion beetles, the insects that pollinate the plant in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, its native habitat.
Many botanical gardens that display corpse flowers have given their specimens nicknames, and the one at the Botanical Gardens in Buffalo is called Morty. While Morty isn’t beautiful, it sure is interesting.
“To us plant geeks, this is an amazing thing to watch,” said Jeff Thompson, director of horticulture at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.
The plant grows quickly. It was 18 inches high when Thompson left for vacation, a week later, it was four feet tall. That rate of growth would be like a human newborn achieving the size of a school bus, in 11 days, he said. Not only is Morty getting taller, it’s getting bulkier, too.
“The amount of biomass it has put on in the last week astounded me,” he told me on Tuesday.
When I took a photo of Morty on Tuesday, it had grown five inches from the day before and was almost five feet tall. Corpse flowers can attain a height of 10 feet. Thompson said that Morty will be larger than Romero, the corpse flower now on display at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.
Morty’s corm, or bulb, weighed 120 pounds when it arrived. The flower itself can weigh 100 pounds, Thompson said.
What you see in the photo is actually all flower. Leaves appear during a different cycle—the leaf can be 20 feet tall. A leafy or vegetative cycle is followed by a dormant cycle. These cycles repeat until one year, the plant sends up a flower instead of a leaf.
The pointy part of the flower that you see in the photo is called the spadix. The spadix is surrounded by a sheath that resembles a single large frilly petal. When the spathe opens, the stinky smell begins.
The flower stays open for only 24 to 48 hours, so you’ll have to be alert and at the ready if you want to experience the plant at its fullest. The Botanical Gardens will have extended hours.
You can receive updates on Morty, extended hour information, fun facts, and its blooming stage on the Botanical Gardens’ Facebook page and through Morty’s Twitter account @Mortystinks — “like” and “follow” to get regular updates. If you post about the plant, use hashtags #corpseflower and #buffalogardens.
Make plans to see this amazing plant at the Botanical Gardens.
Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.