College of Arts and Sciences

3rd Titan Arum ("Corpse Flower") Set to Bloom at WIU Botany Greenhouse

August 29, 2011

MACOMB, IL – Yet another Titan Arum ("Titan #2"), a rare flower housed in Western Illinois University's Biological Sciences Botany Greenhouse, is set to bloom within the next 10 days – two weeks. It will be the third Titan Arum to bloom at WIU since May 2010 (Titan #3 bloomed in June 2010, see "'Corpse Flower' Comes Alive June 29," and Titan #1 bloomed in May 2010 "Rare Flower Blooms at WIU Greenhouse").

According to Jeff Hillyer, greenhouse gardner II, the Titan Arum – also known as the "Corpse Flower," thanks to a less-than-pleasant smell – is a member of the Araceae family that includes such plants as Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Calla Lilly and Philodendron.

"This bloom appears to be smaller than the two blooms from last year," Hillyer said. "I believe the summer heat had something to do that, along with the variability in these plants. But no matter how big this Titan ends up being, it will still be a special event."

Native to the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia, the WIU Titans were initially acquired as seeds from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2002. Hillyer explained that one of Wisconsin's Titans, Big Bucky, was the ovule donor and the pollen donor was Mr. Magnificent from the Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota, FL. The seeds for both of these plants were collected in 1993 by James Symon in Sumatra while filming for Sir David Attenborough's BBC documentary "The Private Life Of Plants." The WIU plants are among the first generation of plants cultivated in the U.S.


This time-lapse slideshow shows "Titan #3" (the name of the
second Titan Arum plant that bloomed at WIU's Botany
Greenhouse) blooming in June 2010. A third Titan Arum
("Titan #2") is set to bloom in the next 10 days – two weeks.



Titan Arum was first discovered in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. He collected seeds, which were provided to England's Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, which recorded the first bloom of this species in cultivation in 1889. The first bloom of this species in the United States occurred at the New York Botanical Gardens in June 1937.

"For most of its life, the Titan Arum grows vegetatively, producing a single, compound umbrella-like leaf. In the wild, the plant can reach 20 feet tall and 15 feet across. The Titans in the WIU Botany Greenhouse have only gotten about half that size," Hillyer explained.

The bloom (or inflorescence) is composed of thousands of flowers and the nickname, Corpse Flower, comes from the blooms' odor that smells like rotting meat. In its native environment, the Titan Arum is pollinated by carrion beetles and flesh flies, which are attracted to the horrendous odor.

To view the Titan Arum, visit the WIU Botany Greenhouse from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or keep track of the Arum's blooming process through Hillyer's blog at wiubotanygreenhouse.blogspot.com.

The 4,500-square-foot Botany Greenhouse, which opened in 1964, is located just south of Waggoner Hall on the WIU-Macomb campus. Plants from more than 100 families are grown in the greenhouse for teaching and research with various biology classes, as well as classes from the departments of agriculture; art; and recreation, park and tourism administration.


Posted By: WIU, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606