Wait a Minute: Is That a Tree?

Student standing by a large tree-like plant.

Ph.D. graduate student Brandon Huber with Lupin.

Remember Lupin, the corpse flower that put up a big stink at NC State University’s plant conservatory about a year and a half ago? Well, he’s changed — big time.

Student standing beside a large corpse flower.
Huber with Lupin in 2016.

The plant, formally known as Amorphophallous titanum, undergoes an unusual life cycle as it gathers the energy it needs to flower. Some of the time, it appears to be a dormant bulb. Some of the time, it grows a huge flower. And other times — like now — it looks like a tree.

Plant owner Brandon Huber, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Horticultural Science, says that the rapid growth he observed as the plant transitioned to this tree-like stage is a signal that another bloom may soon be on its way. The plant is now larger than ever.

“We’ll know more after it goes dormant, but if I had to guess, I’d say another two years for a bloom — 2019, 2020, somewhere in there,” he says. “The neat thing about the development of this plant’s flower is that the plant’s cells know exactly what the plant’s going to do, but we don’t.”

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