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Giant Plant at UW Could Set World Record

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The UW Madison is home to a titan. And people all over the world could feel the impact of it. But it is some employees of the UW who will feel it most. The giant will unleash a foul odor at the height of its success.

"Big Bucky is back again," UW greenhouse director Mo Fayyaz says.
Big Bucky is not a badger, but a bloom ...
"We are looking at amorphophallus titanum," Fayyaz says.
It's a greenhouse monster that measures 6-feet, 4-inches tall.
"We have record in the US ... to grow from seedling ... have flower 8-feet, 5-inches ... still is the record," Fayyaz says.

That was back in 2001, when this same plant native to Sumatra last bloomed.
But the UW Madison could break a world record if the giant titan arum reaches nine feet.

"When it opens, it's gonna be majestic," Fayyaz says.

But brief and stinky. The plant is dubbed the "corpse flower."
Fayyaz expects the tropical plant to reveal itself sometime next week.
That will be its second bloom in just five years, and that's a first for Fayyaz.

"They're saying the tuber lasts for 40 years and during that time it blooms 2-3 times so right now, age of this plant is 12-13 years old and during that time we're getting 2nd bloom."

When the plant last bloomed four years ago, Fayyaz says its distinct smell spread into colleagues offices five floors up.

"They thought maybe bathroom or something wrong, sewer system or whatever, but eventually they found out."

They found out, that bad smell is good.

"Sometimes, some of the things bad to us is good to other beings in nature ... without them the pollination of this plant, many other plants would be impossible."
Fayyaz says the plant's fleshy center heats up when it blooms ten degrees warmer than room temperature, a balmy 75 to 85 degrees.

It's likely to create a similar sensation among plant lovers.

Fayyaz says, "it's gonna be beautiful."

The UW will extend its hours for the public to view the plant when it blooms.


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