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Expected to Bloom, OSU’s Corpse Flower Dies Instead

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Expected to Bloom, OSU’s Corpse Flower Dies Instead
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The same week that two Titan Arums, also known as “corpse flowers” were expected to bloom and grace OSU’s Biological Sciences Greenhouse with a horrid smell likened to that of rotting flesh, both of the enormous flowers seem to have perished instead.

Signs of trouble first started over the weekend, when the greenhouse livestream showed that the spadix – the flower’s central spike – on one of the Titans had collapsed. The next day it appeared the second spadix had toppled as well. Soon after that, the livestream went offline.

Today, the greenhouse confirmed the tragedy: neither Titan Arum managed to fully bloom. The exact reason, however, remains a botanical mystery.

“There isn’t much known about this rare plant, though there have been instances of Titans not blooming both in cultivation and in the wild,” said David Snodgrass, greenhouse coordinator, in an email. “The fact the bloom cycle is very erratic only adds to the mystery and difficulty in studying it, but we are learning as much as we can!”

The blooming of a Titan Arum is a rare and celebrated event in the botanical world, but the flower itself – one of the largest in the world – is just as rare. As OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences noted in a July 19 press release, the wild Titan Arum is vulnerable and threatened by deforestation in its native habitat of Sumatra. OSU’s cultivation of the flower represents a small part of the effort to preserve the Titan Arum’s genetics for the future.

All the more reason to learn why these particular specimens failed to bloom.

“Plants spend a lot of photosynthates (energy) to produce flowers, and it’s possible this happened here,” said Snodgrass. “Again, without much cultural information available about Titans this is still just a guess. I am going to continue to pursue information from those who have reared flowers in the past. We still have a lot to discover about this really unique plant.”

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