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Corpse Flower 'Chanel' Blooms at UC Santa Barbara

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Aug 01, 2013 08:41 AM EDT
corpse flower
Visitors react to the pungent aroma of UCSB's corpse flower
Credit: George Foulsham (Photo : George Foulsham/ UC Santa Barbara)

The corpse flower at UC Santa Barbara, Chanel, has bloomed and is spreading a stench throughout the campus, the university said.

The flower, Titan arum is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. "This is a rare occurrence under cultivation and even rarer in its native Sumatra, where the deforestation of equatorial rainforests has wreaked havoc on its habitat," said UCSB biology greenhouse manager Danica Taber.

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 Titan arum was in news in July when it bloomed at the U.S. Botanic Garden, where it attracted beetles and a lot of people with its putrid smell.

The flower spreads its smell by raising its temperature, burning carbohydrates. These carbs are stored in an underground modified storage tissue. The entire process requires a lot of energy, which is why the flower blooms rarely.

The activity of Chanel at UC Santa Barbara was captured via an infra-red camera. The images showed its core temperature rising up to nearly the human body warmth. The temperatures began rising on Tuesday evening and reached its peak by Wednesday morning.

"The data provided by this series of photographs will help us understand how the Titan Arum uses thermal energy to attract pollinators," said Taber.

Chanel is expected to be a mother soon as the staff at UCSB biology greenhouse got pollen from the corpse flower (called Mortimer) at Washington, D.C. and dusted them on Chanel's female flowers while she bloomed.

The pollinated female flowers will now develop into olive-sized bright orange-red fruits that are present in half-a-meter long cylindrical clusters. Inside these fruits are seeds that require a lot of time and patience to grow into Titan Arum. It will take about five to seven years for Chanel's offspring to bloom.

"Any seeds that Chanel and Mortimer produce from their cross-continent union will help further conservation efforts for this bizarre, majestic, and threatened plant," Taber said in a news release.

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