Rare stinky plant ready to bloom in campus greenhouse

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 27, 2006 – Cover your nose, and come see one of Virginia Tech's two rare Amorphophallus titanum, or "corpse plants" that is ready to bloom and emit its intensely powerful stench.

The plant is expected to bloom by the middle of next week.

“Predicting the bloom is a little like predicting the birth of a baby,” said Deborah Wiley-Vawter, curator of the biological greenhouses.

Follow daily progress of the plant here.

Last time this particular plant bloomed in 2002, hundreds of people visited the greenhouse to see and smell such an oddity. The university’s Horticulture Department has the other corpse plant on campus. It last bloomed in 2004. The species only blooms every two to five years after reaching maturity.

The corpse plant was first discovered in Indonesia in 1878 and first cultivated at the Royal Botanic Gardens in England in 1887. It first bloomed in the United States at the New York Botanical Garden 1937. Virginia Tech has the only two blooming corpse plants in Virginia. The plant invests a lot of energy during blooming to heat up the sulfur-based compound in the flower stalk so the carrion-like odor will spread several feet away from the plant to attract pollinators. In spite of the plant’s long preparation for its flowery display, the blooms last only one to three days, and the stinking odor only lasts the first eight hours after it blooms, so visitors will need to be vigilant to see it and smell it. A flowering stalk can be seven to 12 feet in height and three to four feet in diameter. After the bloom dies, a leaf stalk resembling a tree sapling will begin to emerge.

To get to the greenhouse, turn onto Washington Street from Duck Pond Drive. Very shortly, you will see the greenhouses on the right. After taking the road into the greenhouse complex and reaching a gravel section between the glass and fiberglass greenhouses, stop at the first fiberglass greenhouse, number F-5, where the plant is located.

Or follow your nose.

Visitors are encouraged to park in the Litton Reaves parking lot across the street from the greenhouses. For a campus map and more parking information, call (540) 231-3200.