The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 18, 2013

Gustavus corpse flower may bloom soon


The Mankato Free Press

---- — ST. PETER — Gustavus Adolphus College’s corpse flower is showing signs that it will bloom in early November. It would mark the third bloom in six years for “Perry.”

The rare plant, so named for its insect-attracting stench, is found naturally in the rainforests of Indonesia. It came to Gustavus as a seed in 1993. The seeds were distributed in an attempt to preserve the plant, which is threatened by habitat loss, Chemistry Professor Brian O’Brien said.

O’Brien said that a comparison to the plant before it last bloomed, in 2010, shows it may bloom again in two and a half or three weeks. It will be easier to predict the time of the bloom when it is closer, he said.

Signs of an impending bloom include a taller spadix — the flower covered central shaft — and a purplish-maroon pigment to the spathe, the large leaf the curves around the spadix.

The college again plans to allow visitors to see the plant once it blooms. More than 5,000 people visited last time around, the college said. It also has a live webcam set up, which is viewable at gustavus.edu/biology/titanarum.

O’Brien said he’s noticed changes in the cycle of the plant. For example, the bloom is always preceded by a leaf that grows to provide food for the plant, then withers as the plant goes into a dormant phase.

Before the first bloom, the plant was dormant for nine months, then four months and now only two months.

The corpse flower has the largest group of flowers on a single branch of any plant in the world. Like a sunflower, the corpse flower is actually comprised of many tiny flowers.

Dan Linehan