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GVSU’s Corpse Flower is blooming again, years before expected

GVSU students at the 2022 blooming of the corpse flower
Photo by Kendra Stanley-Mills
GVNEXT (used by permission)
GVSU students at the 2022 blooming of the corpse flower

Frederik Meijer Gardens is now displaying the plant to the public on loan.

“I personally think it smells like roadkill on a summer day.”

Christna Hipschier is the Greenhouse Supervision in the Biology Department at Grand Valley State University which owns the corpse flower that staff nicknamed “The Beast.”

“Its botanical name is the Amorphophallus Titanum.”

“This particular plant has the largest flower structure found in the entire world. Out in the wild, it can grow potentially up to 20 feet tall, which I can imagine if you stumble across that in a forest is pretty shocking!”

It also has, as people will soon find out, an incredible stink to it.

“Like limburger cheese or rotten fish or sweaty gym socks.”

The stench attracts flesh flies and carrion beetles, the pollinators the plant uses.

“It’s also exothermic so it makes its own heat which spreads that stench as far and wide as possible.”

Generally corpse flowers bloom only every 7-10 years but a more established plant may shorten that cycle.

“Ours shortened that up by quite a lot! That was pretty shocking. The last bloom was two years ago in spring 2022 so this one was quite a surprise.”

And a bit of a challenge. There are far fewer students and staff on hand in the summer semester to handle the crowds that want to see the plant – 3500 people came last time. Hipschier reached out to staff at Frederik Meijer Gardens who are now displaying the plant to the public, on loan. It’s expected to hit full bloom Saturday or Sunday but only for 24-36 hours.

“People find the macabre a little different, a little interesting and when something weird like this happens, they want to go see it.”

Visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens website for details.

Timelapse of GVSU's corpse flower opening and closing in 2022 (Courtesy GVSU):

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