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Rare flower blooms in greenhouse

October 14, 2010

One of the world’s largest and most unpleasant smelling flowers finally bloomed after nine years Monday afternoon in the UW-River Falls greenhouse.

“It smells like something rotting,” said freshman Leah Dykhoff while she visited the flower Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s kind of ugly, but cool,” said student Lisa Bowker. “I think it smells like a dead mouse.”

“It smells like a gross fish,” said freshman Jon Atwell.

The Amorphophallus Titanum, which originates from Sumatra in Indonesia and that is currently in the UWRF greenhouse came from UW-Madison’s campus as a gift.

Director of the greenhouses at UW- Madison Mohammad Fayyaz distributed the seeds of the Titan Arum, which had bloomed in Madison June 2001, to conservatories and other greenhouses including UWRF.

“I was fortunate enough to be on his short list of people who got one,” said Greenhouse Manager Dan Waletzko.

Since fall of 2001, the flower has been growing in the greenhouse on campus and had sent up a leaf for the first eight years. This is the first year that instead of sending up a leaf it sent up a flower.

“I didn’t realize it was going to flower until about two and a half weeks ago,” Waletzko said. “I kind of snuck a peak at it when it was around 20-24 inches and saw the tip of the flower.”

Waletzko said the flower had been growing at two and a half inches a day.

“We had to move it once because the flower got too big for the location we had it in,” Waletzko said. “We had it in the hallway and had to move it to the head house so that it had more room to grow.”

According to Waletzko the flower grew to be about two feet five inches wide, and about five feet 10 inches tall.

“It didn’t really spread out as I hoped it would. It probably got to the maximum around one or two o’clock or so at night,” Waletzko said. “So even when I came in this morning it began to shrivel up. We barley got 24 hours out of it, so it was a very short window.”

Students who work in the greenhouse got to have an opportunity to help grow the Titan Arum.

“I came back this year and Dan told me it was going to flower this year,” said senior greenhouse crew worker Rory Martyn. “So these last two weeks I have been making sure its been watered and just this past week I have been helping out informing people about the plant. I’ve been waiting for it to flower and I’m just happy it decided to flower today.”

According to Waletzko the greenhouse had about 700 visitors in the past week and over 600 people last weekend. There was also a live web camera set up so that people off campus could also see the rare flower bloom.

“There have been lots of people coming in to see the flower and a lot have been coming back to keep progress,” Waletzko said. “Today it has just been a constant blow through here. Students, community, professors and everybody have come by to take a look at the flower.”

According to Waletzko the Amorphophallus Titanium typically stays open for a day to a day and a half.

“Right now [the flower] is like the star of the greenhouse,” Waketzko said. “Hopefully in another nine or ten years it will go ahead and bloom for us again.”