Spike the corpse flower didn’t make it in time to bloom and release its foul odor on the expected time and was dissected to search for the answers.
Chicago Botanic Garden strived to breed the rare corpse flowers in its Semitropical Greenhouse. Originally found in Sumatra, the flower is rarely found in the American areas. The flower was being grown under controlled conditions. It was being powered by the sun. For the past twelve years, the flower has been being nurtured and taken care of.
On Friday, the twelve years old flower titled Spike was expected to bloom. It blooms into a huge flower while releasing a rancid odor. Many describe the odor as mixture of limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, a sweet floral scent and mothballs.
The flower failed to bloom, disappointing all the botany activists and hobbyist. Dr. Shannon Still, conservation scientist, and Tim Pollak, the floriculturist who had raised Spike from a seed, peeked inside the frilly spathe to check for pollen.
According to experts, the flower had not died. It had just not matured. The experts said that the plant had not received enough energy to bloom fully. Still also took a peek inside the spathe to look for the pollen but it hadn’t achieved maturity.
Left: A cross-section of the spathe reveals the cell structure inside. Right: A close-up of the hundreds of male (top) and female (bottom) flowers inside Spike’s spathe.
The flower was then frozen to be taken apart. Still and Pollak started to take the huge spathe away to reveal the rubbery tuber like stalk structure the size of a football. Dr. Pat Herendeen, senior director, Systematics and Evolutionary Biology, narrated the procedure as the scientist duo took apart the plant.
The scientists said that the spathe felt a bit like cabbage leaves, with a rubbery texture. The color inside varied from one plant to another in nature. It was dark maroon, the color of rotting meat, which is meant to attract the flies and beetles that are the plant’s natural pollinators.
“The spathe feels a bit like cabbage leaves, with a rubbery texture,” Herendeen said. “The color inside varies from one plant to another in nature. It is dark maroon, the color of rotting meat, which is meant to attract the flies and beetles that are the plant’s natural pollinators.”
As they took the outer layer out, spathe was unfurled and the true flowers at the base of the spadix were revealed. They consisted of pale rows of bumpy-looking male flowers atop a strip of orange and brown female flowers.
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Chicago Botanic Garden has eight flowers that will bloom in the next few years to come. The pollen from this flower was collected. They will be incorporated un trying to make more flowers.