Exotic Corpse Plant Prepares For Rare Second Blooming at Cornell University

Summertime garden
It was just two years ago that the giant corpse plant kept at Cornell University bloomed in a magnificent display that lasted two days. Now, caretakers at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences say the giant plant, better known as Wee Stinky, is ready to do so again.

Although it is hard to say exactly when Wee Stinky will bloom, Paul Cooper, who is responsible for the 50-pound titan arum, has predicted that it will take place Tuesday this week, or even a little later.

The corpse plant, named for the rotting meat smell it gives off as it blooms, is a native to the Sumatran rain forests. As it blooms, the plant releases the corpse-like odor to attract flies and beetles, though scientists are still unsure if this plays a role in the pollination of the plant in the wild.

Biology professors at the university were surprised to find that Wee Stinky was ready to bloom again after doing so just two years ago. It takes a large amount of energy for the plant to open its spathe, which is the large, leafy part of the plant that produces seeds. The process can kill the plant, and scientists were afraid that the 2012 bloom was going to be the last for Wee Stinky.

“We’re really quite surprised that it’s flowering again this soon. We weren’t expecting it,” said Melissa Luckow, a biology associate professor at Cornell University, according to the Star Gazette.

Not only is the blooming of a tropical corpse plant a rare sight, but the plant itself is listed as a threatened species on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species. Its natural habitat in the tropical rain forests of Sumatra is being threatened by farmers who are taking over the land to plant more profitable species, like those that produce palm oil.

By displaying the exotic plant in Upstate New York, biologists and plant lovers alike hope to raise awareness of the importance of plant conservation both in the U.S. and around the world.

“Including plants in your yard that come from other areas of the country or world can often carry diseases or bacteria or other elements that are unknown to us and therefore may present a greater risk to surrounding native vegetation,” says Don Saunders, Owner of Saunders Landscaping Supple. “As long as threatened native plant species aren’t detrimental to the surrounding environment, it is important to try to save any endangered plant species.”
The university is open today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and it will remain open until 9 p.m. the day that it blooms. Visitors can view the plant during open hours at the Kenneth Post Lab’s Greenhouse 114 at 512 Tower Road.

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