Corpse flower yields fruit, seeds

March 12, 2002

Photo of the fruit produced by the titan arum

Campus botanists are harvesting fruit from the "corpse flower," the rare and stinky 101-inch tall flowering plant that bloomed last June.

Mohammed Mehdi Fayyaz, director of greenhouses and botanical gardens at the university, is shown above plucking one of the cherry-sized fruits. At left, he uses a razor blade to slice open the fruit, revealing two seeds.

The plant, more correctly called titan arum, bears a column of red, cherry-sized fruits after it first blooms. Nearly 30,000 people visited the Botany greenhouse in Birge Hall to see the bloom, which was the first in Wisconsin and one of less than 15 recorded blooms in the United States.

The titan arum is noted for a malodorous stench given off by blooms, which can have a diameter of 4 feet. The UW-Madison titan arum is less than 8 years old and was grown from seed collected in Sumatra, on the same expedition where David Attenborough filmed the BBC series "The Secret Life of Plants." The plant was pollinated by hand using donor pollen from another titan arum at the Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Fla.