As of June 21, a new corpse flower is on display in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and set to bloom this month.
The Haupt Conservatory Palm Dome will be open for a special corpse flower viewing on Monday, June 25 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Get Tickets.
The bloom of a titan-arum (Amorphophallus titanum), known to many as the corpse flower, is a horticultural jewel years in the making. Each day of careful tending and feeding has led up to this moment: a brief yet glorious window in which the enormous plant will unfurl, displaying the striking interior and uncanny scent to which it owes its name. After a momentous bloom in 2016, the first to be put on display at the Garden since 1939, we’re excited to share the experience of this unique but unpredictable species once more as we await the imminent flowering of another one of the plants in our collection.
Whenever this rare plant blooms, it causes a sensation. Maybe it’s because it is known for having one of the largest inflorescences in the world, but more likely it’s because of the putrid odor it releases during its brief 24- to 36-hour peak, like the smell of rotting flesh, the reason the plant is more popularly known as the corpse flower.
View the Corpse Flower Live
Legacy of the Amorphophallus
Learn more about the origins of the titan-arum, its long history at NYBG, and the work that went into bringing this flower to fruition.
What is it?
Corpse flower or titan-arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is native to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Its enormous flower spike is the largest unbranched inflorescence (flower structure) in the Plant Kingdom. The fleshy central spike, called a spadix, bears small flowers in rings around its base. The spadix can grow up to 12 feet tall. The spadix is wrapped in a frilly, modified leaf called a spathe. When the plant is ready to bloom, the spathe unfurls, exposing the flowers inside. You may recognize the structure’s resemblance to calla-lily, anthurium, and jack-in-the-pulpit, which are all relatives in the arum family, Araceae. Amorphophallus titanum is often called corpse flower because when it blooms, it emits a powerful stench similar to that of rotting meat. This scent, along with the deep-red, meaty color of the open spathe, attracts insect pollinators that feed on dead animals.
Titan-arums take years to form flower buds, but when they finally do, the flowers mature very quickly. Horticulturists noticed that a six-inch-tall flower bud had formed on Friday, June 1. In the beginning of the bloom cycle, a titan-arum grows four to six inches each day. By June 18, 2018 the bud was 57 inches tall. Later, growth slows significantly. Two leaves at the base of the spathe shrivel and fall off. The spathe begins to open, revealing the red-purple color inside, and completely unfurls over the course of about 36 hours. During full bloom, the spadix self-heats to approximately human body temperature, which helps disseminate odor particles.
How is it cultivated?
This titan-arum has been nurtured in the warm tropical zone of the Nolen Greenhouses. The hot and humid conditions in the greenhouse mimic the natural conditions of Sumatra. The plant must be watered and fertilized copiously.
Why are we so excited?
Titan-arum blooms are rare and unpredictable. Each plant takes seven to ten years to store enough energy to bloom for the first time. This titan-arum is 11 years old.
A Long, Stinky History
NYBG received its first titan-arum from Sumatra in 1932. In May 1937, a flower bud appeared. This was the first titan-arum to flower in the Western Hemisphere, and the Conservatory was mobbed with visitors, reporters, and photographers. After a long wait, the plant finally bloomed on June 8. Its eight-foot spadix was the largest ever grown in cultivation.
A second specimen bloomed at NYBG on July 2, 1939. The Bronx Borough President commemorated the event by designating Amorphophallus titanum the official flower of the Bronx. (It was replaced by the more conventionally attractive daylily in 2006.)
A third titan-arum reached full bloom here in late July, 2016. That plant (not the same specimen displayed here) attracted more than 25,000 visitors to smell the bloom in person and nearly two million views of its progress on a live online video feed.
Life Cycle of a Titan-Arum
View the lengthy life cycle of the titan-arum, a process that requires years before a single flower can be produced. Courtesy of our friends at the Chicago Botanic Garden.