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Spring 2012
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Web Exclusives

Titan Arum at Cornell University

Content adapted from: Cornell's Titan Arum Blog

Cornell's towering titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), known commonly as the "corpse plant" and given the name "Wee Stinky" by a popular vote, attracted about 10,000 visits, including more than 3,500 on March 19 alone. Below, you will find time lapse video and photo, thermal imagery, stench emission measurements and more.

Time Lapse Photos and Video:

High-Angle, High-Resolution Video Time Lapse:

Two Day Photo Time Lapse:
—plus collapse of spadix three days later.

The Spadix Collapse:
On March 22, 2012. Don’t fret. Ph.D. candidate Gwynne Lim told me early that day that it was hollow and could go over anytime. “We went to the greenhouse early this afternoon and the appendix was ripping at the seams just above the male flowers,” says Lim. “It looks so sad.” View the 7-hour collapse in 30 seconds below or on YouTube.



Robert Barker/University Photography

Robert Barker/University Photography

‘Wee’ have a winner

The votes have been counted and the Cornell Titan Arum now has a name: Wee Stinky — named for Wee Stinky Glen, a small stream running through campus. (The glen is no longer stinky. More about that under question #2 here.) The official results:

  • Big Red 14%
  • Uncle Ezra 33%
  • Wee Stinky 53%

Thermal Images

Andy Leed, manager of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences greenhouses for the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, took a series of thermal images during the titan arum flowering. Below was taken Saturday 3/17/2012 at 8 p.m. Andy reported: “It doesn’t look like there’s any significant heating at this point.”

thermal image from Saturday night

By Sunday night, after the spath opened, things had heated up. Here’s the base of the spadix:

thermal image from Sunday night

Top of the spadix Sunday night.

thermal image from Sunday night

The base of the spadix had cooled off some by Monday morning.

thermal image from Monday morning

Top of the spadix had cooled off as well.

thermal image from Monday morning

Viewing male flowers Monday night through portal cut into spathe to collect pollen.

thermal image from Monday evening


What Made ‘Wee Stinky’ Stink – and When

From Gwynne Lim (3/21/2012):

1. Dimethyl disulfide and 2. Dimethyl trisulfide – garlicky, strong cheese, rotting meat.
3. Benzyl alcohol – sweet floral scent
4. Phenol – like Chloraseptic gargles
5 Indole – smells like mothballs


Larger view.


Titan Arum Pollination

The plants cannot self-pollinate. In the wild, insects attracted by the plant’s odor bring pollen from other plants that flowered earlier to fertilize the female flowers. Cultivated titan arums require hand pollination as the approximately 450 female flowers that ring the base of the column-like structure (spadix) are ready to receive pollen beofre the 500 to 1,000 male flowers above shed their pollen. Using pollen collected from another titan arum at Binghamton University, Wee Stinky was pollinated and we are on the lookout for seed production.

Pictures below are from Andy Leed, Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences greenhouse manager, of Laurie Kasperek collecting pollen from the titan arum at Binghamton University. Click on images for larger view.

Below: Female flowers ring the base of the spadix. Note hole in the spathe for access to collect pollen.

arum pollination

Below: Female flowers at base of spadix with male flowers above.

arum pollination

Below: A plastic spoon did the trick collecting pollen to Binghamton University arum titan.

arum pollination

Endoscopy Images – See Inside the Arum

From Kenneth Simpson, professor of medicine, Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, who stopped by Friday and performed an endoscopy to view the inside of the inflorescence.

Here is the first batch of endoscopy photos from inside the corpse plant. The images were acquired with a prototype Karl Storz endoscope. (The vet school is a Beta test site.). Contact me by land line, pager or carrier pigeon if you need more plantoscopy. Cheers! Kenny.

Here’s a sample sequentially as the endoscope moved down the inflorescence.

endoscopy image

endoscopy image

endoscopy image

endoscopy image

endoscopy image

endoscopy image

Growth Chart

Here are the stats on the arum’s growth:

Date Height (inches)
3/4 38
3/8 48
3/10 53
3/11 55
3/12 57
3/13 59
3/14 62
3/15 63
3/16 64.5
3/17 66
3/18 66.5