Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Corpse Plant Blooms at MPM

Milwaukeeans already know the Big Gig. Now get ready for the Big Stink.
The city is about to get a snoot-full of its very own, very rare, very huge and very smelly "corpse flower," which is about to bloom at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
This titan arum blossoms only once every six years, and it has its tubers set on nothing less than becoming the biggest flower in the world. And if it does, Wisconsinites will be holding their noses all the way to Sheboygan.
The museum's corpse flower, which has never bloomed before, has its roots in Sumatra, and only about 140 of the plants are known to exist in the world, according to Neil Luebke, curator of botany at the museum and the stinky plant's guardian.
The museum's plant is the offspring of bloomin' celebrities. One of them is none other than Big Bucky, the 8-foot-tall floral super-stud that drew more than 20,000 sinus-challenged visitors when it flowered in Madison in 2005.
The titan arum's olive-size seeds were planted in 2002, products of a long-distance love-match between Big Bucky and Mr. Magnificent, an equally odiferous bloom from Florida. Luebke found the seedling a home in the museum's Butterfly Gardens, where the humidity and 80-degree temperatures suited the fussy plant just right.
Luebke gave the plant a special mixture of vitamins and water, patted it each day and, yes, talked to it. "But I'm not telling what I said to it, other than I encouraged it to grow."
And grow it did, at a rate of about an inch an hour in the last few days; it now stands at about 6 feet tall. Museum officials hope this beauty will grow to a height of about 10 feet, which would make it the biggest flower in the world. Titan arums are so rare that in their native rain forests, they must send out a signal to fellow plants in order to fertilize each other. They do this by raising a stench that travels for miles.
The foul nature of the odor has been described as everything from rotting poop to "rotting flesh, roadkill," Luebke says. If you like the smell of a dead mouse forgotten in a trap for a week, you'll love the corpse plant.
No one knows for sure exactly when the plant will bloom, But its stardom will be short-lived. It will stink for only about six hours, and then it will say hosta la vista, collapsing after a mere two days.
By Jackie Loohauis-Bennett of the Journal Sentinel
Neil Luebke is the curator of botany at the Milwaukee Museum and the namesake of Neilson, the museum's corpse flower. The flower's 7-foot spadix collapsed on Saturday, but the flower rallied to bloom on Monday.
I actually visited the MP Museum twice to see this flower. Once with hubby (Mike) and daughter (Amy) We got some great pictures of it, but no smell. Yes, that is Amy, looking like she is going to take a great big lick of the flower. It's just something she does at museums, I don't know why, I just capture the kodak moment. She takes after her fahter.
A close up picture of the bloom. The picture on the right is what it looks like if it is a plant and not a bloom.
The flower opened up on Monday, I took my Mom, sister and Amy on Tuesday to see it. We didn't get to see it open, but we did get to smell some of the odor that still lingered in the air. I am sure it will be the largest bloom I will ever see, open or no, it was something to see.


Miz T. said...

What an incredible experience to see (and smell) such a plant. I believe the largest bloom I have ever seen is a dinner plate peony, and they are far smaller than this. I love the colors that merge from celery green to plum and burgundy. I'm so glad we don't have "smellavision" on our computers...ugh! Thanks for sharing!

Cranberry Creek Herbs said...

an avid gardener and i have never heard of this. the pictures are awesome, i'll have to do a search now on the net. hi miz.

ann, i hope all is well with you. i love your blog. hoping to catch up soon with all the wool ladies.

fairygurl49 said...

Is the older woman with you your mom? I have always wanted to see a corpse plant! Not necessarily smell it, mind you! I LOVE your blog! How do I get one of my own?!

Ann said...

Yes that is my Mom. She loves going to MPM because of the live butterfly display. She collects butterflies.