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Giant Corpse Flower blooms at Ohio State University

Environment Columbus, United States - 25 May 2012

The second Titan Arum grown from seed to bloom in Ohio flowered in the Biological Sciences Greenhouse at The Ohio State University on May 25, 2012. Corpse Flower is an alternate name for the Titan Arum, and it has been named for the odiferous stench that smells like a corpse. The reason it has this odor is that the plant is pollinated by carrion beetles and flies. The spathe is a deep purple-red, which resembles rotting meat.

Titan Arums are rare and endangered in their native habitat. They occur in remnant rainforest patches in Sumatra. It is not known how many plants are left in the wild, but there are more than 200 plants in cultivation at botanical gardens, conservatories,  universities, and private collections throughout the world.

Each Titan Arum in cultivation receives a name the first time it comes into bloom. The 2012 bloom at OSU is named Jesse after Jesse Owens, the famous track and field star who graduated from OSU in the early 1900s. Jesse was 5 ft 6 inches tall and the spathe expanded to 36 inches during full bloom. The Titan Arum belongs to the Araceae, a family of plants with an inflorescence that consists of a central stalk called the spadix, and a colorful leaf bract surrounding the stalk, which is called a spathe. At the base of the spadix are hundreds of male and female flowers. The female flowers are at the base of the spadix and the males are positioned just above.

Female flowers are receptive for pollination during the first hours of full bloom, but the male flowers shed their pollen about 24 hours later. This is a mechanism that promotes cross- rather than self-pollination. In the wild, carrion beetles and flies would be attracted by the stench and visit the inflorescence to either pick up or deliver pollen.  For Titan Arums in cultivation, pollen is distributed among a network of growers. Pollen can be preserved at -80°C indefinitely.  The pollen for Jesse came from 'Clive' - a Titan Arum that bloomed in Niagra Falls, Canada on April 27, 2012, and from 'Woody' - the first Titan Arum to bloom at Ohio State on April 23, 2011.

The pollen from Jesse was collected May 27, 2012 and will be made available for pollination of future blooming Corpse Flowers.

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