Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor
“It smells like rotten meat, it looks like rotten meat, so it’s going to attract things that like rotten meat,” said Cynthia Dassler, program coordinator and curator of non-vascular plants and fungi.
But in spite of the odor, people lined up Sunday around the Ohio State’s Biological Sciences Greenhouse waiting to get a glimpse, and maybe a whiff, of the Titan Arum, also known as the Corpse Flower.
“Everyone wants a good stink once in a while,” said engineer Scott Roe, who waited with his family for a chance to see the famed flower.
“It’s once every 20 years. You can’t miss it,” added his wife, Jennifer Roe, a teacher.
Besides its pungent smell, the Titan Arum drew visitors who came to marvel at its remarkable shape and size.
OSU’s Titan stands at 5-feet-6-inches tall and boasts a deep red color, or, as Dassler said, that of “rotten meat.”
Titan Arums are extremely rare and considered to be a flagship species for gardens and greenhouses, according to a flier the Greenhouse gave to attendees.
In fact, there have only been about 134 documented cases of the flower blooming in captivity, said Joan Leonard, coordinator of OSU’s Biological Sciences Greenhouse.
Even in its natural habitat in the rain forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the flowers are endangered.
“Over 70 percent of its native area has been destroyed due to illegal logging and agriculture use, so a very small percent of its native habitat is still in existence,” Leonard said.
Eric Renner, a third-year in agricultural systems management, was one of the hundreds of people who lined up to witness the Corpse Flower.
“The fact that Ohio State has something that’s not from this continent here is pretty cool,” he said.
The Titan Arum’s odor can be attributed to its reproductive habits.
“The central part of the flower emits that rotting, road-kill kind of odor in order to attract pollinators,” Leonard said. “Those pollinators are flesh flies, sweat bees and carrion beetles, things that you would find around a dead animal or trash. It’s trying to fool them to come in and pollinate the female flowers.”
Audrey Begun, who is an employee at the college of social work, came to see the Titan Arum after missing the opportunity to witness the flower when one bloomed in Milwaukee.
“It’s not as big as I thought it would be but it’s really gorgeous,” said Begun, who described the odor as that of “burnt chocolate.”
Titan Arums typically stay open for 24 to 48 hours, Leonard said.
Other institutions that house Titan Arums have seen as many as 30,000 to 75,000 people over a couple days, Leonard said.
OSU’s Titan, named “Woody” after famed football coach Woody Hayes, has already started to close up after blooming Saturday night.
The Biological Sciences Greenhouse held an open house Sunday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will be holding another from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today for people who want to experience the Titan Arum themselves.