The stinky flower bloomed and it only took 13 years! Brandon Huber, a horticultural science master’s student, was thrilled to see and smell his Amorphophallus titanum bloom recently. Known commonly as a corpse flower, the bloom created quite a stink. Many spectators came for the smell alone, but the titum arum is also known for its beauty and rarity. Only 200 or so titum arum blooms have occurred in cultivation in the past 127 years. Huber called his plant a flagship plant and said it is the world’s largest flowering plant. Once it blooms, the flower lasts only a few days.
Huber acquired his corpse flower nine years ago when he was visiting the Huntington Botanical Gardens in California. It was a dormant four-year old corm which is an underground stem and was the size of a softball. Huber brought the corpse flower with him to NC State in 2014. To honor the plant’s connection to NC State, Huber named it Lupin, after Remus Lupin, a werewolf from the Harry Potter series whose name comes from the Latin word meaning wolf.
Understanding the unique event that was about to occur, Diane Mays, the conservatory curator, arranged to have a live feed set up on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website (cals.ncsu.edu/corpse-flower-at-nc-state). The flower opened fully on September 23 and became an overnight sensation. Standing 6 ½ feet tall, the beautiful flower attracted a steady crowd of visitors through its blooming cycle which lasted through Sunday September 25. Huber was a natural teacher and interview subject, and his and Mays’ enthusiasm never wavered.
Who is Brandon Huber?
Brandon Huber is a horticultural science master’s student working with Dr. Todd Wehner in plant breeding. He’s been growing plants since early childhood and won several prizes as a teen. When the plant showed signs of blooming, Huber’s family traveled from Pennsylvania to be with him during the event.
While the plant was in bloom, Huber pollinated his plant using pollen from a titan arum that bloomed at the University of Wisconsin a few weeks ago. If that pollination is successful, he could have blooming offspring in about a decade. Huber will also use Lupin for hormone studies.
The Conservatory and its Curator
The conservatory does not usually accept personal plants, but when Huber contacted conservatory curator, Diane Mays, and told her what he had, she made an exception. The conservatory is located in the Marye Anne Fox Teaching Laboratory. Diane Mays has been its curator for 17 years. Mays is extremely talented and knowledgeable about plant care and plant propagation. The conservatory collection is diverse and includes cacti, succulents, tropical foliage plants, ferns, orchids, and carnivorous plants. Mays manages all to a high standard. She also loves working with her undergraduate student interns and teaching them plant care and greenhouse management.
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Whether through hands-on instruction in our greenhouses, field labs or community gardens, our work ensures the economic and environmental sustainability for horticulture across the state, the nation, and the world. Help support our work by designating a gift for the conservatory.
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