It's one of the most unusual and most immense flowers in the world. And for the first time in Pittsburgh, people will be able to see it bloom.
If they can stand the stench.
The scientific name is Amorphophallus titanum, also called the Titan Arum. As the largest unbranched flower structure in the world, it is indeed a titan.
Corpse Flower bloom timelapse
'Romero' the corpse flower only blooms perhaps once in 10 years and appeared ready to spread its spathe. A few hours later, it started to bloom. Here is a time-lapse of its journey. (Courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens)
But its most apt title might be "corpse flower," because when it blooms, it exerts a strong smell akin to rotting flesh. Plus, its dark purple color looks like carrion, explained Ben Dunigan, curator of horticulture at the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Garden.
Phipps bought the plant in 2010. As is typical with Titan Arums, the plant was given a name. The conservatory decided on "Romero," after George Romero, the legendary director behind zombie movies such as "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead," both filmed in Pittsburgh.
"You can see the connection, because it's called a corpse flower," Mr. Dunigan said.
Romero is expected to bloom in late August, and it will be a rare occasion: Titan Arums bloom for 24 to 48 hours, then close up again and typically remain dormant for six to 10 years.
As Mr. Dunigan put it, "This is a big deal."
It is impossible to predict exactly what day and hour the blooming will begin, but when it does, the conservatory will alert the public via Twitter and Facebook.
When the plant first arrived at Phipps, it weighed 10 pounds. It now weighs 60 pounds and is growing at a rate of 3 inches a day. Mr. Dunigan said it could begin to grow up to 6 inches a day, at which point a human eye might be able to literally see it getting bigger.
"It's quite breathtaking. It will clearly be different from anything you've ever seen," Mr. Dunigan said.
And, probably, smelled.
The stench is an evolutionary trait that apparently attracts pollinators such as flies and beetles. It is created by two sulfur compounds and peaks at nighttime when the flowers heat up to nearly 100 degrees.
Corpse flowers are native to Sumatra, Indonesia, and were first exhibited publicly in England in 1889.
Although they are endangered in their native environment, universities and botanical gardens around the world have worked hard to save them.
Titan Arums require a lot of space, in addition to a very hot, humid environment.
So, while they are available for purchase online, Mr. Dunigan doesn't recommend trying to grow your own.
In light of the event, Phipps will offer extended hours and remain open until 2 a.m. The Conservatory will also offer special membership deals.
Admission is $15; students and seniors, $14; children under 18, $11; under 2, free. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; Friday, until 10 p.m. Extended hours during blooming: open until 2 a.m.
Maggie Neil: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1280. First Published August 10, 2013 4:00 AM