Corpse flower blooms at WSU Vancouver

The Reflector

The corpse flower — known for its infamous odor that’s similar to the smells of a decomposing animal — bloomed last week at Washington State University Vancouver.

Throngs of visitors streamed onto the campus on Wednesday, Aug. 17, to check out the rare bloom which was expected to last 24 to 48 hours.

Known locally as the Titan VanCoug, the flower was on display outside of the greenhouse at the east end of the Science and Engineering building. It’s one of four corpse flowers the university has in one pot.

When Titan VanCoug last bloomed in 2019 it attracted 20,000 visitors to the campus.

The corpse flower, which has the latin name Amorphophallus titanum and is also known as titan arum, is native to the rainforests in the limestone hills of Sumatra, Indonesia.

“They are among the world’s largest and rarest flowering structures,” stated a news release. “They bloom rarely — typically after seven to 10 years of growth and just once every four years or so afterwards throughout a 40-year expected life span.”

The corpse flower’s strange odor is meant to attract pollinators to help ensure the continuation of the species. Dung beetles, flesh flies and other carnivorous insects that typically eat dead flesh are attracted to its scent.

Titan VanCoug has been raised by Professor Emeritus Steve Sylvester, who planted a seed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s titan arum plant in 2002, stated the release.

Sylvester cultivated the seed from the plant known as Big Bucky in a pot on his desk. Once it grew too large for its space, it was moved to the stairwell in WSU Vancouver’s Science and Engineering building.

“A late bloomer at 17, Titan VanCoug’s first bloom was most likely delayed because its corm (tuber) cloned,” stated the release. “Corpse flowers put up only one leaf at a time. The pot that contains Titan VanCoug has had as many as four leaves showing at once, evidence that four separate corms exist.”

The bloom on Aug. 17 was likely from the second largest corm.