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Corpse flower ready to bloom at Botanical Gardens

Erin Grajek

on July 28, 2014 - 5:50 PM

Visitors to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens are about to find out just how stinky Morty – the corpse flower – can get.

The flower, one of the largest in the world and extremely rare in a public setting, is expected to bloom over the next 10 days, emitting an odor compared to rotting flesh.

“We are all cautiously optimistic about what is going to happen,” said Erin Grajek, marketing director for the Botanical Gardens.

Additional hours are planned for the increased attendance that would typically show up for special displays with sweeter scents.

“There’s probably still a 7-year-old in all of us who think gross things are entertaining,” Grajek said.

The corpse flower – its actual name is amorphophallus titanium – only blooms every six to 10 years, which makes the occasion rare enough. Making it an even rarer occasion is that only around five bloom annually worldwide because so few are in captivity.

Jeff Thompson, the horiculture director – with the added title of “undertaker” for the duration of Morty’s blooming – said the plant, which resembles a “big, gnarly potato,” is 51 inches tall, growing at a rate of 5 inches a day and expected to reach 6 to 8 feet tall. The potatolike part of the plant currently weighs 120 pounds.

The bloom typically lasts 24 to 48 hours, and the scent of rotting flesh lasts about 12 hours.

The corpse flower is one of three the Botanical Gardens obtained in early July. They are native to the rain forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, and are difficult to grow, requiring warm, humid greenhouse conditions.

The plant also eventually sends up a leaf that is the largest in the world, rising to 30 feet. The leaf typically lasts for two weeks before going dormant for years.

“We’re very excited about having this plant here, We’ve all talked about it for many years, and it just so happened that we got three of them. Hopefully, in the future, we can do something like this again,” Thomson said.

The @mortystinks Twitter account will update daily photos and information on the plant’s status. Updates also will appear on the Botanical Gardens’ Facebook page. The name “Morty” could be short for either “Mortimer” or “Morticia,” Thompson said of the plant, which is both male and female.

In Pittsburgh, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens set one- and two-day attendance records when its corpse flower named “Romero” – for legendary horror movie director George Romero, who filmed “Night of the Living Dead” in Pittsburgh – drew more than 12,000 visitors over a two-day period last August – 9,200 on the first day alone.

Those attendance figures would shatter Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens’ attendance records over a similar time frame, Grajek said.

“The large size, the awful smell and the limited time of the bloom all contributed to the corpse flower’s unprecedented success at Phipps,” said Joe Reed, Phipps’ interactive markeing assistant.

“For me, the most exciting thing of all as to see people lined up by the hundreds to see and learn about a plant. There really is nothing else like it for public gardens.”

email: msommer@buffnews.com

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