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Something Stinky This Way Comes...

Darrow's rare corpse flowers are on the rise

NEW LEBANON, NY—Winter Storm Stella may have thwarted the arrival of spring on the Darrow Mountainside but one perennial springtime visitor is already making its malodorous presence known.

Corpse flowers were first planted at Darrow in 2009, in the sheltered confines of the school’s Samson Environmental Center (SEC). Four bloomed in 2012, six in 2013, and now, according to Craig Westcott, Assistant Head of School for Advancement and External Relations, between 8 and 10 plants have sprouted, with the earliest plants approaching the bloom stage.

"The corpse flower is a rare plant that is challenging to grow," said Westcott. "It wouldn't be possible in this region without a facility like the Samson Environmental Center and the careful attention of both students and faculty. It's a real triumph for us as a secondary school, and yet another visible symbol of Darrow's commitment to global education and to environmental stewardship and preservation."

The corpse flower is an Indonesian plant, also known as the konjac arum (Amorphophallus konjac). It boasts the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, and the third largest flower of all known plants. The flower gets its name from its distinctive odor, which many liken to the smell of rotting meat. The corpse flower, a relative of the calla lily and the jack-in-the-pulpit, grows wild in the rainforests of southeast Asia from a large underground corm. The plant first flowered in cultivation in London in 1889. Fewer than 50 of the largest variety of corpse flower, the titan arum, are known to have bloomed in the United States, with the smaller konjac arum, typically found only in botanical gardens, museums, and private greenhouse collections.

The flower’s large green bud grows at a rate of about an inch per day, until it finally blooms into a central stem that can reach up to four feet tall, as well as a huge, purplish-brown blossom that resembles an asymmetrical collar. Its powerful fumes, which last for days, help to attract pollinating insects. After about a week, the plant wilts and goes dormant for its next phase, a branching, treelike structure.

The SEC features many green-design elements, from photovoltaic panels to wind turbines, and is the destination for more than 500 visitors annually from schools, civic and municipal organizations, urban planning firms, and the general public. The SEC also houses the Living Machine™, an innovative wastewater treatment facility that uses a natural ecosystem to clean wastewater from campus dorms and buildings before returning it to the Hudson River watershed.

Media inquiries: Steve Ricci, Director of Communications, at 518-794-6004riccis@darrowschool.org. Hi-res images available.

 

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