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Chicago’s Corpse Flower Is Kind of a Disappointment

After failing to bloom as planned, horticulturists had to force “Spike” open

Visitors get a load of a blooming corpse flower in Basel, Switzerland in 2013. A similar flower failed to launch in Chicago this weekend. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/Reuters/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

It was one of the horticultural world’s most-anticipated events — and it ended with a resounding “meh” for botanical superfans in Chicago this weekend. CBS Chicago reports that the long-awaited opening of Spike, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s corpse flower, didn’t quote go as planned this weekend.

Described on the garden’s website as “rare and unpredictable,” the titan arum plant was scheduled to open in all its putrid, stinky glory sometime this weekend. In anticipation of the opening of the rancid-smelling flower (nicknamed “Spike,”) the garden amped up the flower’s own Twitter and Facebook page and even trained a live webcam on the bud.

There was only one problem, CBS Chicago reports: Despite the presence of hundreds of fans and over 57,000 visitors in three weeks, the bud never opened. A research scientist tells CBS news that the flower was “past its prime.” The plants, which can grow up to 15 feet tall and eight feet wide, can take up to seven years to bloom and unfurl their fetid flowers.

Tim Pollak, a Botanic Garden staffer, is taking the failure to bloom in stride. “Plants are plants; they can disappoint anybody, even home gardeners,” he told Chicagoist’s Marielle Shaw. Pollak noted that when the flower became wilty and dry at the top, horticulturists had to admit that it just didn’t have the energy to bloom on its own. Shaw writes that they removed the spathe (the leaf at the flower’s base) to inspect male and female flowers inside.

As conservation scientists attempt to preserve Spike’s pollen to seed other plants, another botanic garden declared stinky victory this year. The Associated Press writes that Stinky, a corpse flower at the Denver Botanic Garden, bloomed for about 48 hours earlier this month. 

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