A closeup of a corpse flower

GVSU corpse flower blooming for first time; foul smell soon to follow

The corpse flower in the Grand Valley Greenhouse is blooming for the first time since its arrival about seven years ago, and the watch is on for it to open enough to emit its distinctive rotting-flesh smell.

As of Friday, the tropical plant had not started emitting its odor, which scientists say smells like rotting flesh to attract the flies that pollinate the plant.

Grand Valley's corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum, was a donation from Tim Strickler, professor emeritus of biomedical sciences, around the time when the Kindschi Hall of Science on the Allendale Campus opened in 2015, said Christina Hipshier, supervisor for the Barbara Kindschi Greenhouse. The rare plant is native to Sumatra.

Christina Hipshier smiles while standing with the corpse flower.
Christina Hipshier, supervisor of the Barbara Kindschi Greenhouse, says of the blooming corpse flower, "We're all very excited about it."

Because of its size, the plant is expected to bloom normally on a cycle of once every seven to 10 years, said Hipshier, adding that older, more established plants may bloom in a shorter period of time.

The plant is grown in the tropical room of the 3000-square-foot greenhouse, with a temperature around 70 degrees and a humidity level of 55 percent to 70 percent, Hipshier said. 

Successful blooming depends on a "little bit of alchemy," said Hipshier, who added the plant grows fairly easily as long as it isn't overwatered when dormant.

Mark Luttenton, professor of biology, stands with hands behind the back while gazing at the corpse flower.
Mark Luttenton, professor of biology, stopped by the greenhouse on April 8 to look at the corpse flower.
Rebecca Daigle looks at the corpse flower.
Graduate student Rebecca Daigle examines the corpse flower located in the greenhouse in the Kindschi Hall of Science. "I'll be stopping by every day," Daigle said.

Beyond the fascination with the odor, Hipshier also notes that the plant is visually pleasing. "It's beautiful; it's this deep burgundy when it opens up. And it's such an unusual shape. It's not something that you see every day."

For those interested in this unusual botanical experience, the greenhouse will be open this weekend. You can visit from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 10. Hipshier said if the flower is still opening next week, the greenhouse will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


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