A momentary, smelly sensation: Watch time-lapse video of GVSU's corpse flower opening and closing
It has been a stinky sensation.
The blooming of GVSU's corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum, in the Barbara Kindschi Greenhouse has attracted about 3,500 visitors who wanted to experience the rotting-flesh stench of the flower, said Christina Hipshier, greenhouse supervisor.
Hipshier notes that the normal operation of the facility is as a teaching greenhouse used for laboratory work and researchers. She opens it a handful of times a year for special events such as providing a respite during exam time, but generally access is limited so as to not disrupt research.
But when the rare plant flowered for the first time since it was donated to the greenhouse in 2015 when the Kindschi Hall of Science opened, Hipshier welcomed the public and took on the role of educational guide for visitors.
In a time-lapse video, GVSU's corpse flower opens and closes amid a steady stream of visitors
The greenhouse was open late on April 18 when the plant was at its odorous peak. The stench was fleeting; by April 21, the flower and the smell were fading fast. The greenhouse was slated to be open for one more day, April 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for a last look.
Hipshier said she was greeted by community members, including families with small children, and GVSU students who wouldn't normally come through the greenhouse. Some folks were repeat visitors. One person celebrated a birthday by bringing his family to see the botanical wonder.
"It was just a really happy atmosphere. People were asking a lot of questions about it," Hipshier said.
George McBane, associate dean for facilities, scheduling, research and analytics for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, praised Hipshier's work in temporarily transforming the greenhouse to a scientific-education public attraction.
"We’re excited that so many visitors, including many community members, came to check out that spectacular bit of botany and to appreciate our lovely greenhouse and its surroundings," McBane said. "We have lots of planned events for the public – such as Science Olympiad, various talks and discussions and Science on Tap – but the timing of this one was set by a single plant and it wasn’t on our calendars. We’re glad we were able to offer this rare learning opportunity to our community."
With the glory of its bloom diminishing, the plant will die back to soil level and the bulb will go dormant, then regularly grow vegetation through the ensuing years until it generates enough energy – typically after seven to 10 years – to grow another huge, and stinky, flower, Hipshier said.
She has been telling visitors that this growth pattern is similar to a familiar bulb like a tulip, which also goes dormant for a time. The difference is that while a tulip usually blooms each year, the corpse flower is such a large bulb, it takes more years to gather the energy to produce the distinctive flower.
And so the years-long wait for the next bloom will start again.