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A third Titan Arum -- also known as the "Corpse Flower," due to the blooms' odor that smells like rotting meat -- at Western Illinois University is on the verge of blooming. WIU Botany Greenhouse Manager Jeff Hillyer posted this photo on the Botany Greenhouse blog Tuesday (Sept. 6). On Thursday (Sept. 8) morning, he said that the last bract of the Titan Arum has shriveled and he expects it to open in the next two days. Check out Hillyer's posts on the blog at wiubotanygreenhouse.

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Corpse Flower on Verge of Inflorescence

September 8, 2011

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MACOMB, IL -- Its growth is slowing, and that means a pungent putridity will likely soon return to the Western Illinois University Biological Sciences Botany Greenhouse. According to Jeff Hillyer, greenhouse manager, a third Titan Arum -- also known as the "Corpse Flower," due to the blooms' odor that smells like rotting meat -- at WIU is on the verge of blooming.

Hillyer keeps a blog that documents some of the interesting greenery he cares for in the greenhouse (see, and Tuesday (Sept. 6) he posted that the slowing of the growth of WIU's third Titan is an indicator of the spathe (the sheathing bracts that enclose the bloom or "inflorescence") getting closer to opening.

"The inflorescence is composed of thousands of flowers. In its native environment, the Titan Arum is pollinated by carrion beetles and flesh flies, which are attracted to its foul odor," Hillyer said. "The last bract has shriveled and fallen, so I expect the Titan to open within the next two days. I won't know what day it will open until about noon to 3 p.m. If it has not opened during that time window, then it won't open that day."

Hillyer added that the day WIU's third Titan Arum opens he will keep the greenhouse open until midnight so interested Western students, faculty, staff, as well as the general public, can come to the greenhouse to get a whiff and see the plant's magnificent bloom. The day after it opens, he said the WIU Botany Greenhouse will likely be open for its regular hours (which are generally 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday).

"Titan #2," as this particular Titan is called by Hillyer, is the third Titan Arum to bloom at WIU since May 2010. (The first Titan Arum bloomed at the WIU Botany Greenhouse May, 2, 2010 [see "Rare Flower Blooms at WIU Greenhouse"]; Titan #3 bloomed June 29, 2010 [see "'Corpse Flower' Comes Alive June 29"].)

Background about the Titan Arum at WIU

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.

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.

You can track the progress of WIU's latest Titan that will bloom through Hillyer's blog at

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.

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