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2 local gardens will have corpse flower in bloom

Corpse Flower ready to bloom

The Corpse Flower at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is near full bloom reaching over 4 feet tall with a strong odor of what has been described as rotting flesh.
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The Corpse Flower at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is near full bloom reaching over 4 feet tall with a strong odor of what has been described as rotting flesh.

It’s a rare and somewhat bizarre moment to stand in the presence of the massive, short-lived, funky blooms of Titan Arum, also known as the corpse flower. The opportunity comes twice in about a week in the Charlotte area.

A celebration started Monday at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont as Morphius – short for the botanical name Amorphophallus titanum – bloomed for the first time.

Stowe will be open for extended hours Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., to give visitors a whiff of the 50-inch blossom that Tuesday began filling the air with the stench of rotting flesh. Check out Stowe’s website at www.dsbg.org/events/news/titanarum and Facebook page for updates on the bloom cycle, which winds down after about 48 hours.

One of the two Indonesian natives growing in pots at UNC Charlotte’s McMillan Greenhouse is a few days away from reeking nature’s dark counterpoint to eau de toilette.

Regular hours at the greenhouse are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. The botanical gardens’ Facebook page will have updates on blooming.

It’s exciting to look at, unusual to smell, and you can see it in a tropical environment.

Kara Newport, executive director at Stowe, said of the Orchid Conservatory

Corpse flower’s spectacle happens only after six to 12 years for a new plant. Stowe acquired Morphius for its Orchid Conservatory in 2012, but the staff isn’t sure how old the plant was then.

UNC Charlotte’s plant, called Odie, is about 11 years old. This will be the third time a corpse flower has bloomed there. A plant called Bella bloomed twice before it died, most recently in 2010.

The smelly bouquet of the corpse flower tends to fade after 12 hours or so. The aroma is a signal to pollinators in Sumatra’s rainforest that the plant is ready to reproduce.

“We’re just happy to get ours to flower, and we feel like we have such a good place to display it,” Kara Newport, executive director at Stowe, said of the Orchid Conservatory. “It’s exciting to look at, unusual to smell, and you can see it in a tropical environment.”

Paula Gross, assistant director of UNC Charlotte’s Botanical Gardens, planned to visit Stowe garden Tuesday and hoped to collect pollen from Morphius. She wants to use the pollen to propagate Odie, named for the Italian scientist who discovered the plant.

Corpse flowers need pollen from a second plant to reproduce. That’s the reason she’s excited to have two in bloom locally.

“For us to be able to go and collect pollen and just carry it over here is a very rare opportunity,” she said. “After we pollinate it, we will be watching like a hawk to see if it takes.”

Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms

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