The return of Lil' Stinker

June 17, 2022 Nick Snakenberg , Curator of Tropical Collections and Associate Director of Horticulture

The first corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) to bloom in cultivation was grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and blossomed in 1889. Even though more than 130 years have passed, it wasn’t until the past decade or so that cultivated plants began to bloom more and more frequently. This is due in large part to a better understanding of how to grow and propagate these plants, a higher availability of nursery grown seeds and corms and a sharing of information between public gardens on how best to care for these amazing plants. 

‘Lil Stinker’ corpse flower is currently blooming in Denver Botanic Gardens’ Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory (located off the Boettcher Memorial Center and Marnie’s Pavilion). This is the second bloom for ‘Lil Stinker’ and the fourth corpse flower bloom at the Gardens since ‘Stinky’ first bloomed in 2015. The bloom will likely continue for the next 24-36 hours, but the smell dissipates within the first hours. The plant will be moved to a non-public greenhouse after the blossom fades. Advanced purchased, timed entry tickets are required. The Gardens will not have extended hours during the bloom. 

Found only in Sumatra, corpse flowers are known for their large inflorescences and for the putrid smell emitted when they bloom. The plant has long alternating dormant and vegetative growth periods which allow the underground corm to grow and to store energy. Once the corm has reached a mature size and has stored sufficient food reserves, a large inflorescence may be produced. The foul odor that is emitted helps attract sweat bees, carrion flies and beetles that help facilitate pollination. When the bloom cycle is complete the corm once again goes dormant and the process of building energy for the next flowering begins again. This cycle can take several years so blooms are rare and unpredictable.
 

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