Exciting things are blooming in Discovery Forest! The corpse flower at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanic Garden is close to blooming for the first time ever! Nicknamed “Morticia”, it was given to us as a gift from the Chicago Botanic Garden three years ago and has lived in our very own Discovery Forest since. Also known as the titan arum, Amorphophallus titanum, the corpse flower is an elusive plant found in the jungles of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They are even rarer in botanical gardens, and rarer still are the infamous flowers, which can take up to ten years to appear.
The massive flowers are specially evolved to attract the plant’s chosen pollinators, which are carrion beetles and flies. Thus, it does its best to imitate the smell, color, and even heat of a rotting animal. The beautiful, flesh-colored flower releases a cocktail of compounds elsewhere found in things like sweaty feet, Limburger cheese, and garlic. It then heats up to 98°F to both disperse the smell far and wide and to mimic the heat of a decaying animal.
The flower only lasts about 24 hours after opening, the precise timing of which is difficult to predict, but the horticulture team is estimating full bloom by the beginning of next week. They have also reached out to the Chicago Botanic Garden to try and get pollen from another flower sent down to hopefully obtain seeds that can be shared with other institutions. Some may even become a tasty treat for our rhinoceros hornbill birds, which are the plant’s main method of dispersing its seeds in its home habitat.
This event is not only a fascinating and rare event but highlights the importance of CZBG’s gardens. The titan arum is under threat in its small native range from factors such as habitat loss and a changing climate. Much of what we know about the plant comes from botanical specimens like Morticia. The diverse selection of plants like Morticia provides a robust gene pool and critical knowledge needed for restoration efforts. The titan arum is an ambassador for the countless other plant species that need our help, and a symbol of hope for what we can do for them. So come join us for this momentous occasion, and get a good whiff!
We can’t wait for Morticia to bloom here at the Cincinnati Zoo! Follow along for updates and come see (and smell) for yourself!
Visitors are welcome to come see Morticia in the Zoo’s Discovery Forest. The Zoo, and Discovery Forest, are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the Summer Adventure presented by Cincinnati/NKY Honda Dealers. Members may enter at 9 a.m. There is no additional charge to see this amazing plant.