UNC Charlotte’s second titan arum – also called the “corpse flower” for its powerful rotting flesh odor – bloomed July 17 at McMillan Greenhouse. The event attracted visitors hoping to witness the 5-foot-4-inch plant and smell its notable scent, which can reportedly travel up to half a mile away.
Named Odoardo – “Odie,” for short – after Odoardo Beccari who discovered the titan arum in 1878, this plant is a rare exhibit as it’s native only to the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.
In captivity, titan arums are expected to bloom about two or three times. In 2007 and 2010, UNC Charlotte’s first titan arum, “Bella,” bloomed and also attracted crowds – about 4,000 people – looking to experience its signature stench. The university obtained two more titan arums in 2008.
This event is unique as another nearby garden – Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont – had its own corpse flower bloom July 13. Horticulturists at Daniel Stowe allowed staff at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens to collect pollen from its titan arum.
“When we found out one was blooming at Stowe, we just couldn’t believe it,” said UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens Interim Director Paula Gross. “I mean, what are the chances of that? And then the fact that our two gardens could collaborate.”
Greenhouse Manager John Denti will attempt to pollinate Odie by gently painting the pollen samples on its female flowers. If pollination is successful, Odie will die, but it will produce berries with two to three seeds each.
The hope is that they will be planted, germinated and possibly ready to bloom in eight to 12 years. If all goes to plan, they will share some of these plants with Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens and other institutions. And according to Gross, for a plant like the titan arum that’s being threatened in its native habitat, it’s important to maintain genetic diversity for the plant to promote its long term survival.
“The web of life on Earth depends on all this diversity. It’s the diversity of that organic life that keeps our planet stable,” said Gross. “Life on Earth is worth preserving.”