URI Horridge Conservatory prepares for first bloom of giant ‘corpse flower’ in Rhode Island history

URI Horridge Conservatory prepares for first bloom of giant ‘corpse flower in Rhode Island history

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corpse flower
Titan Arum blooms every four to six years.

Four-foot flower from Sumatra smells like death, seldom blooms

KINGSTON, R.I. – August 31, 2012 – A “corpse flower” at the University of Rhode Island, the plant with the largest flower on Earth and one whose bloom smells like decomposing flesh, is expected to bloom sometime in the next few days, the first time a specimen in Rhode Island has ever bloomed.

The plant, native to Sumatra and officially called Titan Arum, blooms for only 24-48 hours every four to six years. Blooming events in North America are so rare that the plants are commonly named; the URI plant is known as Audrey. The approaching bloom is Audrey’s first since she arrived at URI in 2009 for inclusion in the Botanical Gardens tropical plant collection.

According to Gabrielle Torphy, a research assistant at the URI greenhouses, the plant began the flowering process two weeks ago.

The plant begins as a soccer ball-sized bulb called a corm from which grows a vegetative stalk up to eight-feet tall with three-part leaves. When the stalk dies off, the plant undergoes a several month period of rest, and then another stalk may grow. Occasionally, instead of a stalk, a flower begins to grow. In the days leading up to its blooming, the plant grows to about four- to six-feet tall.

Once it starts, its growth rate is pretty dramatic,” said Torphy. “It gets really tall really fast. And once the growth spurt ends, that’s when the flower blooms.”

The public is invited to visit the URI Botanical Gardens Matthew Horridge Conservatory, 6 Greenhouse Rd., Kingston, to see and smell it 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those wishing to see the plant in person may park in the Fine Arts Center lot and follow a new sidewalk to the north of the Fine Arts building, across Upper College Road to the greenhouses. Signs directing visitors to the appropriate greenhouse will be visible from Upper College Road.