Corpse Flower “Romero” at Phipps prepares to bloom again. Smell The Magic!

Posted on: May 31, 2016 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

When the corpse flower blooms it smells like rotting flesh to attract pollinators.

When the corpse flower blooms it smells like rotting flesh to attract pollinators.

It was back in 2010 when Ben Dunigan, curator of horticulture at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens pulled me aside to show me the corpse flower in a vegetative state. The tall green stalk would eventually die back and hopefully would reemerge as a flower. It’s almost impossible to predict when the mysterious Amorphophallus titanum will bloom and release its “fragrance” of rotting flesh.

Three years later, flying back home from a trip to Canada and upon landing my phone blew up; the corpse flower was in bloom. I raced to Phipps to discover a line all the way through the conservatory and out the front door. In two days 12,000 curious visitors got a whiff of the aromatic bloom. I can tell you this, at one point the odor hung in the humid air of the Palm Court and I wondered if I would lose the dinner I enjoyed on the plane a few hours earlier.

Famed film director George Romero poses with his namesake flower. Romero directed Night of the Living Dead.

Famed film director George Romero poses with his namesake flower. Romero directed Night of the Living Dead.

“Romero,”named for the famous film director George Romero is now on display at Phipps and it’s still unsure when it will bloom. Early estimates were two to three weeks, now the experts think it might be sooner.

It will be center stage in the Palm Court until it blooms. Phipps will be open until 8 p.m starting this Saturday June 4 (Phipps is always open until 10 p.m. on Fridays).

The corpse flower is a rare sight, blooming every three to seven years and it’s something to see…and smell too.

To follow the progress of the bloom follow Romero’s Twitter at @RomeroatPhipps. Updates will also be posted here.

More about Amorphophallus titanum from Phipps-
Corpse flowers are the world’s largest un-branched flower structures and typically only bloom every three to seven years. However, Romero has been hard at work restoring his energy so he can rise again. After his last dramatic display in 2013, the big stinker got some well-earned rest and went dormant for about eight months. Then, he began sending up gargantuan leaf buds that reached up to 12 feet high. The leaves soaked up energy from the sun and stored it underground in an organ called the corm. By fall 2015, the corm had gone from its dormant weight of 37 lbs. to a whopping 67 lbs., large enough to send up a new bloom, which will grow up to eight feet tall.
Corpse flowers are native only to Sumatra, Indonesia and are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, the most distinctive trait of this plant is not its size or global population, but its smell.

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”