By the end of the week, the University of Connecticut’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Conservatory will play host to visitors from throughout the Northeast who hope to get a glimpse — and a whiff — of UConn’s infamous “corpse flower” in bloom.
The plant is a native of western Sumatra, an Indonesian Island, where it is referred to as the bunga bangkai, or “corpse flower.”
Planted in 1994, the Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum, is known for its foul odor similar to rotten meat.
The flower first bloomed in 2004. It was the first to do so in New England and one of only about 200 that have been recorded blooming in the United States in the last 10 years.
Since then, it has bloomed twice, in 2007 and 2008. The last bloom was perhaps the oddest, because the plant is only expected to blossom every three years.
“It is a very large flower and it takes a lot of energy to produce a flower this big,” said Clinton Morse, plant growth facilities manager at UConn.
Currently the flower bud is 61 inches tall and will open before it reaches 6 feet. Morse expects the flower to reach 66 inches, falling short of its record height of 71 inches.
Predicting exactly when the titan arum will bloom is difficult, but the plant’s rapid growth is beginning to slow, which scientists say is a good indicator.
“We’re estimating the end of the week. My original guess was the 18th,” Morse said. “Probably Thursday or Friday, possibly into Saturday. It’s slowing down. There’s no way to paint an exact date.”
Designed to attract nocturnal insects, the plant starts to bloom around 4 or 5 p.m. and begins to fully blossom around 8 or 9 p.m. The peak of the flower’s bloom and intoxicating odor occur from around 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., with the flower closing slightly during the following day.
“By about 36 hours the show’s pretty much over,” Morse said.
Normally, the greenhouse is open 8 to 4 Monday through Friday. However, on the night the flower blooms they will be extending their hours until 1 a.m.
In previous years UConn installed a web cam so that others could witness the titan arum’s blossom, but because of budget cuts, Morse said they will not be able to set one up again this year.
“We will be posting pictures regularly on our Facebook page,” Morse said.
More than 20,000 people visited the fragrant flower in 2004 over a two-week period to discover for themselves what all the hype was about.
Although 2004 was the only year during which visitor turnout was recorded, Morse says crowds show up to see the flower each time it blooms.