Thousands visit greenhouse to witness blooming of 10-year-old plant

“Rotney the Magnifiscent” performs his greatest magic trick yet

| May 4, 2018

“Rotney the Magnifiscent” is currently blooming in the UNC Charlotte greenhouse. Photo by Chimena Ihebuzor.

Wake up and smell the… Rotney? “Rotney the Magnifiscent,” that is.

Thursday at 5 p.m., the Titan Arum Flower reached full bloom for the first time in 10 years. Thousands are expected to visit McMillan Greenhouse to catch a deadly whiff of Rotney, nicknamed the “corpse flower” for its notorious funk. Titan Arums are also the largest inflorescence in the world, as Rotney is expected to reach an impressive 5-foot-5-inch.

“It’s going to be like a dead raccoon — Not at your feet, but at your face,” said Botanical Gardens Director Dr. Jeff Gillman. “It’s almost six feet, but until you see it, you don’t get it. You can read all the facts, but until you confront that thing in person — when it’s really stinky — you don’t know what it’s like.

“A good comparison is when you’re watching American football on TV; Then if you’ve ever met an NFL linemen in person and said, ‘You know I’ve seen you on TV, but I didn’t realize how huge and big he is.’”

Rotney is only the third Titan Arum flower in the history of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Rotney and his twin, Odie, were welcomed to McMillan Greenhouse back in 2008. Odie bloomed in 2015. The shyer Rotney took an extra three years to make a guest appearance.

Christian Hoover, the garden’s marketing manager, has been tracking Rotney closely for some time now.

“We first noticed that Rotney was putting up a bud in early March,” she said. “About mid-March is when we realized that this could be a flower instead of a leaf that’s coming up, and then it’s been growing since then. It went from around 10 inches in the beginning of April to where it is right now which is five-foot-five. This is the mature height of this plant.”

In some cases the odor can travel up to a half mile-away. Thankfully for nearby residence halls, the intense odor only lasts for 12 hours. Still, the bloom will stay open (with a much lighter odor) for only 1-2 days. The plant must reach 10-15 years of age before it blooms for the first time and then blooms every 3-5 years thereafter. The Titan Arum has been labeled an endangered plant from the rainforest island of Sumatra.

“Rotney is actually becoming quite rare in the wild because of deforestation and people poaching these plants,” said Hoover. “So the work that we’re doing here at the botanical gardens in cultivating these plants is very important work to preserve this species.”

McMillan Greenhouse will be open Friday until 7:30 p.m., when the bloom is expected to close. Don’t miss your opportunity to catch “Rotney the Magnifiscent” in action.

“We think of it as a gateway plant,” said Gillman. “It’s something that can introduce the average Joe into plants because it’s a really cool attraction. So please come to visit Rotney but when you do be sure to check out our other plants too. We have 10 acres of gardens here, 5,000 square feet under glass.

“We just want people to come and enjoy plants, the crazy diversity in the plant kingdom and appreciate all that these things do for us.”

A live stream is available on the Gardens’ website.

Photo by Chimena Ihebuzor.

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