WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Another Corpse Flower Blooms at WIU

Macomb, IL – The greenhouse at Western Illinois University was a popular place Tuesday night (June 29). A steady stream of people came by to see - and smell - an unusual flower's bloom.

The Titan Arum is nicknamed "The Corpse Flower." That's because it smells like rotting flesh when it blooms.

The odor was noticeable from the parking lot outside the greenhouse. Some visitors were not especially bothered by the smell. Others covered their noses as they entered the greenhouse.

This is the second Titan Arum to bloom at WIU in two months. However, it's still considered a rare event. Greenhouse Gardener Jeff Hillyer points out the seeds were acquired eight years ago, yet this is the first time the plants have bloomed.

"It doesn't occur every day here. It doesn't occur every year," Hillyer said.

Hillyer said the greenhouse has two other Titan Arums that have yet to bloom. He said they need to get larger to sustain a bloom, though there is no guarantee they ever will bloom.

"These Titans seem to do whatever they want," Hillyer said. He said a plant in Michigan recently bloomed for the first time in 15 years.

Hillyer said Titan Arums can be found in the wild on the edge of rain forests in Sumatra. More and more, they can also be found at universities in the United States.

"Just this year there have probably been eight to ten of them bloom here in the United States, which is probably the most in any one year so far," Hillyer said.

Universities share the seeds if they are able to successfully pollinate a plant. WIU obtained its seeds from the University of Wisconsin.