Virginia Tech College News
BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 21, 2015 – As the song goes, you were never promised a rose garden. At least not at the Jacob A. Lutz Garden Complex where all eyes and noses will be on the exotic corpse flower — a prehistoric-looking plant that will bloom early next week, releasing a primordial stench akin to rotting flesh.
Lucky visitors to the complex on Virginia Tech’s campus will be able get a whiff and an eyeful of the rare plant next week when it blooms for the first time in five years.
Experts estimate the flower is set to bloom and unleash its stink bomb of a scent on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of next week at the complex, located adjacent to the Hahn Horticulture Garden where visitors will be able to see the plant, affectionately called “Phil, ” up close. The garden and greenhouse are run by the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Visitors to the corpse flower can visit the greenhouse beside the Hahn Horticulture Garden in building F-2 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the second green house in from McComas Hall, and also engage with the college on social media using the hashtag #stinkyphil to upload photos of the plant on Twitter, and post them to the college Facebook page. Think you know when the plant will be at its peak bloom? We’re also taking guesses on Facebook and in tweets sent to us as to when the public thinks the stink bomb will drop and the flower is in full bloom. Check in at the Hahn Horticulture Garden on Facebook and check back on the social media pages for daily updates and a time lapse video of the bloom in progress.
This flower is no shrinking violet. A mature bloom can reach up to 7-12 feet in height, and a diameter of 3-4 feet. Those who want the true corpse flower experience will have to keep a close eye on when the flower actually blooms, since the blooming period will last only about 48 hours and the overwhelming stench is said to occur only in the first eight hours of blooming when the flower expends a lot of energy to attract pollinators.
The plant is native to Sumatra, Indonesia and was first discovered there in 1878 by Odoardo Beccari. The first organization to cultivate the corpse flower, whose scientific name is Amorphophallus titanium, was the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Kew, England in 1887. The plant first bloomed in the United States in 1937 at the New York Botanical Garden.
Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture owes its odorous legacy to James Symon, a medical doctor who collected the seeds of the plants in Sumatra and shared them with John Ford, a frequent visitor to Virginia Tech and a member of the Aroid Society, an organization dedicated to the study of plants that belong to the Philodendron or Arum family.
“Phil” is an offshoot, or corm, of the original bulb that was donated by Ford.
Nationally ranked among the top research institutions of its kind, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences focuses on the science and business of living systems through learning, discovery, and engagement. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives more than 3, 100 students in a dozen academic departments a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. Students learn from the world’s leading agricultural scientists, who bring the latest science and technology into the classroom.