A Rare Corpse Flower now in bloom at the WSU campus

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Titan VanCoug now in bloom
Steve Sylvester cuts open Titan VanCoug's spathe to pollinate the female flowers.(Credit: WSU)

After 17 years, a rare corpse flower housed at Washington State University Vancouver is finally blooming for the first time.

Titan VanCoug, as it is known on campus, began to bloom just before 8 p.m. Monday, July 15 outside the greenhouse at the east end of the Science and Engineering Building.

The bloom is expected to last 24 to 48 hours and can be seen in person 8 a.m.– 9 p.m. on the WSU Vancouver campus or via live webcam anytime.

About the corpse flower

The corpse flower (Latin name Amorphophallus titanum, also known as titan arum) is infamous for its odor—comparable to that of a decomposing animal.

The odor is meant to attract pollinators and help ensure the continuation of the species. Dung beetles, flesh flies and other carnivorous insects that typically eat dead flesh or lay their eggs in rotting meat are attracted to the titan arum. In the corpse flower’s native Sumatra, the bloom can be located by smell from up to 50 yards away. Sometimes it is so strong people can’t stand to be near it.

Corpse flowers are among the world’s largest and rarest flowering structures. They bloom rarely—typically after seven to 10 years of growth and just once every four years or so afterward throughout a 40‑year expected lifespan.

About Titan VanCoug

Titan VanCoug has been raised by Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences Steve Sylvester. He planted a seed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s titan arum plant, affectionately named Big Bucky, in 2002. He cultivated it in a pot on his desk until it grew too large to contain in such a small space. It has grown in a stairwell in WSU Vancouver’s Science and Engineering Building for some time.

On June 1, Titan VanCoug’s first bloom started to appear. By July 1, Titan VanCoug had grown to 25.5 inches tall. It has grown about 2 inches per day leading up to its bloom.

A late bloomer at 17, Titan VanCoug’s first bloom was most likely delayed because its corm (tuber) cloned itself. Corpse flowers put up only one leaf at a time. The pot that contains Titan VanCoug has had as many as four leaves showing at once.

Sylvester has arranged to receive pollen from The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. He hopes to pollinate Titan VanCoug so that it will develop seeds he can share with other universities and conservatories.

Materials provided by Washington State University

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