Corpse Flower “Morticia” captivates with brief bloom, morbid stench

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She was expected to arrive Friday the 13, but Corpse Flower ‘Morticia’ decided to make her own fashionable entrance a day later.

Guests are in awe of her rare beauty and greeted by the powerful, relentless stench of Morticia, the Giant Corpse Flower. An extraordinary occurrence, this is the second time the flower has bloomed after the flower emerged for the first time four years ago, in 2012. With a short blooming period of 2 to 4 days, visitors have the rare opportunity to see and smell the Amorphophallus titanum. 

Native only to Sumatra, Indonesia, it is rare for the Corpse Flower to bloom in its native habitat, but it is extremely rare for it to do so in cultivation. This will be the fifth bloom for the state of Texas. Moody Gardens had a special Corpse (Flower) Visitation and Viewing hours Thursday through Sunday.

“We certainly were expecting her to bloom yesterday, but Mother Nature is very unpredictable,” said Donita Brannon, horticulture exhibit manager at Moody Gardens; who jokes about her late arrival. “I guess she decided to be the diva she is and arrive a little later than expected.”

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The common name, Corpse Flower, originates from the unpleasant odor the plant emits during flowering. The strong smell that is similar to rotting flesh attracts its pollinators, carrion beetles and sweat flies. It is considered the largest flowering plant in the world, often reaching heights of over 10 feet tall. Technically, it is the largest unbranched inflorescence, containing both male & female flowers.

The plant has a very unpredictable blooming schedule, as there is no bloom season and flowers can be produced at any time of year, which can typically range from 2-10 years with no guarantee that they will ever bloom. The Corpse Flower grows from an underground tuber which can weigh up to 200 pounds. A single large leaf that resembles a small tree emerges from this tuber that can grow to more than 20 feet tall. During this vegetative state, the tuber gains energy to produce the massive bloom. The plant then goes into a dormant period for approximately three months. The tuber will then either produce another leaf or a flower as it has at Moody Gardens. Once the tuber breaks dormancy and begins to send up a flower spike, the plant will usually bloom within four to six weeks. The flower grows very quickly at a rate of four to six inches per day. The Moody Gardens Corpse Flower broke dormancy during the second week in April. There are six other Corpse Flower tubers in the Rainforest Pyramid. Brannon hopes to see some of these plants bloom in the future.

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The Corpse Flower was first discovered in 1878 by an Italian plant explorer Odoardo Beccari. Upon initial discovery, the plant struck fear into Beccari’s team due to the plant’s tremendous size and smell. It was believed to be a man-eating plant. Beccari took seeds back to the botanical gardens in Florence, Italy and later sent seedlings to The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, England. The first recorded bloom of the Corpse Flower took place at Kew in 1889. Police had to be called in to control the crowds of people who came to see it.

The first bloom ever recorded in the United States took place at New York Botanic Garden in 1937 where it created a similar response. The same plant bloomed again in 1939. In May 1998, the University of Missouri at St. Louis had a bloom and was the first in this country in nearly 60 years. Due to the plant’s peculiarity, popularity and incredible appeal to growers and collectors in the botanical community, the Corpse Flower began to gain attention again in the 1990s and early 2000s. As of September 2015, there have been 122 recorded blooms in the U.S. at arboretums, botanic gardens, zoos and universities.

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  • There have only been five Corpse Flower blooms in the state of Texas.
  • Morticia represents two of the five Texas blooms.
  • She is the only Corpse Flower to have bloomed twice in the state of Texas.
  • Most beautiful during daytime hours.
  • Most powerful stench around dusk.
  • The common name “Corpse Flower” originates from the rotting flesh odor it emits while in bloom.
  • Largest flowering plant in the world. – PRNewswire
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