Austin Peay corpse flower expected to bloom soon, visiting hours expanded

APSU Corpse Flower
Posted at 3:10 PM, Jun 04, 2022

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Austin Peay State University's corpse flower, named Zeus, could bloom any day now, which is a very rare event. Because of this, the university has extended the hours the public can see the plant.

Corpse flowers, also called Amorphophallus titanum or titan arum, only grow in Sumatra, Indonesia, and bloom for the first time after the first 8-10 years of their lives. Once a plant blooms, it may bloom again in as little as two or three years.

The plant can grow to be up to 15 feet tall, and when it blooms, it emits a horrible smell.

“We’re used to flowers with sweet smells that attract bees and butterflies,” said Austin Peay biology professor Dr. Carol Baskauf. “The nickname for this plant is ‘corpse flower’ because it smells like rotting, dead meat. It stinks terribly.”

A 2010 scientific study found that the corpse flower smells like a combination of cheese, sweat, garlic, decomposing meat, feces and rotting fish. The smell is meant to attract pollinators like flies and carrion beetles.

Austin Peay's plant is also one of only a few — as of 2019, only about 500 corpse flower plants lived in university or private collections or botanical gardens. About 1,000 live in the wild.

Interested visitors can stop in to see Zeus from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. this week at Austin Peay's Sundquist Science Complex greenhouse, located on the first floor at the end of hallway "A."

Once Zeus blooms, the bloom will only last 24-36 hours.

Fans are also welcome to check out the plant's livestream on the university's Department of Biology webpage.