St. Louis Public Radio News
5:23 pm
Fri May 29, 2009

Rare corpse flower to bloom at University of Missouri

St. Louis, MO –

A rare plant that hasn't bloomed for eight years is expected to flower at the University of Missouri's greenhouse in St. Louis on Friday or Saturday.

The titan arum, or corpse flower, is named for its bad smell which some liken to a dead animal. It blooms for only 12 to 20 hours and uses its odor to attract pollinators.

Greenhouse Manager Kathy Upton says while it's possible for the plant to bloom every other year, it usually takes several years to produce a flower and no one knows why.

"Everybody wants to know that reason because everyone would want their flower to bloom every year because it attracts so much attention. But that's what makes this plant fascinating is that it's so unpredictable you never know when it will bloom."

Upton says the plants come from Indonesia and can heat themselves up to about 100 degrees to attract beetles and flies.

"And it does this so that the odor it's giving off will be dispersed further in the rainforest when it blooms."

Corpse flowers have bloomed less than 100 times in the U.S. and only in two other Midwest locations. A collector gave the University the seeds for its plant 14 years ago. The plant also bloomed in 1998 and 2001.