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Friday, February 26, 2021

Longwood’s corpse plant finally blooms

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Longwood Gardens’ enormous corpse flower bloomed Monday night.

The flower that embodies everything stinky about 2020 bloomed Monday night at Longwood Gardens.

The corpse plant’s crinkly outer coat called a spathe opened about 8 p.m. to reveal its deep burgundy insides and start the process that would lead to the release of a stench that smells like rotting meat.

The plant wouldn’t release its nasty smell until the female flowers were ready to receive pollen, said senior horticulturist Joyce Rondinella.

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Known as Sprout to the Longwood staff, the corpse plant has been holding court in the gardens’ conservatory, where long lines of people wait up to an hour or more to be able to see it.

This bloom will only last 24 to 48 hours, and Longwood — a former du Pont estate in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania — has extended their closing time to accommodate flower-o-philes who want to get a whiff in person.

Known as a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium), the corpse flower is the world’s largest non-branching flower. On display, it looks like somebody stretched the Pillsbury doughboy into a torturous position.

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Because Longwood doesn’t have a cache of dung beetles to pollinate the plants (more’s the pity, eh?), Rondinella will do that with pollen from a different plant. She has been babying this stinker, measuring her each morning to see how much she had grown in the last 24 hours. That growth could be as much as 6 inches a day, to its current height of more than 6 feet. It had slowed down yesterday to just 1 inch overnight.

The plant has both female and males flowers, but can’t pollinate itself. The female flowers go into heat — no joke, the plant heats up to release the pollen — first. Hours later, the male plants will release pollen. In its natural habitat, beetles and flies would spread that pollen to other plants. Rondinella will try to collect some for another garden to use.

To buy tickets to see Sprout, go to longwoodgardens.org. To see a live stream of Sprout, go to longwoodgardens.org/sprout or check out the gardens’ Facebook page.

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Pro tip: If you go just to see Sprout, ask guides for directions to the line to see the corpse flower. Thay way, you can avoid going through the conservatory tour, but you will miss lots of great stuff inside, including blooming water lilies.

Corpse flowers are found in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. The last time one bloomed at Longwood was in 1961.

Guests at Longwood must wear masks and practice social distancing.

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Pennsylvania has added Delaware to the states on its COVID-19 quarantine list, recommending that anyone who travels to the First State should quarantine for two weeks after returning home. The quarantine is not mandatory.

It does not appear to ban people from Delaware going into Pennsylvania.

Longwood Gardens is not asking guests to quarantine.

 
 
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