Surprise! GVSU corpse flower set to bloom again, will be on display this time at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

When last we left the GVSU corpse flower in 2022, the rare flower that emits a rotting-flesh odor and caused a sensation on campus was not expected to emerge again until the end of the decade at the earliest .

Usually, it takes another seven to 10 years for the huge, stinky bloom to appear again. But the Amorphophallus titanum in the Barbara Kindschi Greenhouse apparently had a different timetable.

Greenhouse staff members discovered about a week ago that the plant, which had just broken dormancy and was growing its expected vegetation, was now also preparing to bloom. Recalling the approximately 3,500 visitors to the greenhouse to experience the plant in 2022, the GVSU plant experts knew they couldn't accommodate such crowds given the limited staffing for this quieter time on campus.

Watch a timelapse of GVSU's corpse flower opening and closing in 2022

So they asked the team at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park if that venue could host and display the plant so the community could experience this rare flower. Meijer Gardens officials agreed, and the public can view the on-loan plant in the Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse during normal hours of operation.

The estimated peak bloom is between June 14-16, experts said. The bloom is typically open for only 24-36 hours.

GVSU's plant, which was donated in 2015 by Tim Strickler, professor emeritus of biomedical sciences, bloomed for the first time just two years ago. It is lovingly called "The Beast" by those at GVSU. 

"Barbara Kindschi Greenhouse staff members were definitely surprised to see our Amorphaphallus tintanum starting to bloom again so soon after the last bloom in the spring of 2022," said Christina Hipshier, greenhouse supervisor. "We are grateful for the help from Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in displaying The Beast. Considering that this bloom is happening during a time when most students are not on campus, we are excited for the visibility that this collaboration will bring."

A person folding their arms on a table smiles while standing next to a plant.
Christina Hipshier is the supervisor of the Barbara Kindschi Greenhouse
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

The rare plant, which is native to Sumatra, smells like rotting flesh to attract the flies that pollinate the plant. It is one of the largest plants in the world.

“This is an incredibly exciting and unique thing to experience," said Steve LaWarre, senior vice president of Horticulture at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. "Many people go through their entire careers never seeing an example like this in person. We are thrilled that in addition to our own Putricia, which bloomed in 2018, we are able to display another Amorphophallus titanum thanks to our colleagues at Grand Valley State University, and that the public is showing such great interest.

"We are especially excited to work with the Biology Department at GVSU and are thankful for the collaboration between our organizations.”

The yellow part of a large photo is seen close up.
One person reacts strongly while another sniffs a corpse flower, which emits a foul odor.
Here are some moments from the 2022 blooming of the GVSU corpse flower. The blooming attracted thousands of visitors to the Allendale Campus to experience the rare flower. Photos by Kendra Stanley-Mills

Hipshier explained earlier that the GVSU plant is grown in the tropical room of GVSU's 3000-square-foot greenhouse, with a temperature around 70 degrees and a humidity level of 55 percent to 70 percent.

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.

It's hard to know why the plant decided to bloom again so soon. Perhaps, Hipshier said with a chuckle, it's particularly happy in its campus digs. 


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