A month ago, Sam Sumpter was just starting a new job as the University of Kansas greenhouse manager.
Now he’s getting ready for one of the most exciting weekends that the greenhouse has seen. A Titum arum — also known as a corpse flower — is about to bloom there.
“Everyone here is so jazzed about it,” Sumpter said. “I can’t wait because this is the first time one has ever bloomed at KU. The fact that I randomly just started this job and now get to lead this whole project is phenomenal.”
The University of Kansas acquired the seed for the corpse flower in 2019. After it blooms, Sumpter said he will attempt to pollinate it and likely send pollen samples to the Chicago Botanical Garden for further research. Ultimately, he said the plant will hopefully be germinated and make its way through other educational institutions and research facilities.
The corpse flower is one of the world’s largest plants, but it’s not just known for its size and beauty. It gets its name from the pungent odor it gives off.
Corpse flowers are relatively rare, and although they typically don’t bloom until they’re about 15 years old, Sumpter estimates this one is about 7 years old. He said he’s currently trying to determine the flower’s family lineage, which will help the greenhouse staff come up with a name for it once it blooms.
He’s also been keeping the public posted about the timeline of this corpse flower’s blooming on social media. He said while some people already are knowledgeable about the significance of a blooming corpse flower, others are learning about it for the first time and have been curious.
“I think a lot of people are familiar with it, but I’ve been trying to do a really good job of making educational posts for people and explaining the different processes of the odor pollination,” Sumpter said. “I think that’s really gotten people even more intrigued.”
The flower is expecting its bloom in the next couple days, and once it does, it will remain in bloom for approximately 24-36 hours. The greenhouse will be open from tentatively 9:30 or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the public to get a look at it. Masks will be required, and guests will be encouraged to limit their time in the greenhouse, which is on the third floor terrace at Haworth Hall at KU, in order to get as many people through as possible.
Visit the KU National History Museum‘s social media pages for additional blooming updates.