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Spike 2.0

A corpse flower gets a second chance

Spike the corpse flower is back on bloom watch at the Chicago Botanic Garden. You might remember Spike, our first titan arum to begin its bloom cycle in August 2015. That summer, Spike showed signs of blooming but ultimately didn’t have enough energy to open up. Now Spike is powering up again for what could be a huge, noxious bloom. Drop by the Semitropical Greenhouse to see how this fast-growing plant changes every day. Second time’s the charm?

When will Spike bloom?

Corpse flowers (Amorphophallus titanum) are notoriously fickle and unpredictable. We can’t say when Spike will bloom or if the plant will bloom at all. Our blog describes the pre-bloom clues.

How big and smelly will Spike get?

We wish we had a crystal ball, but we’re on bloom watch, just like everyone else. Here’s what we can tell you: Last year, Java, our biggest titan arum ever, was nearly 7 feet tall. Java’s twin, Sumatra, unleashed the most pungent odor of any corpse flower we’ve ever had—like being downwind of an overflowing garbage truck.

What has been happening with Spike since the plant first went on bloom watch in August 2015?

After Spike lacked the energy to bloom, we moved the plant to the production greenhouse and repotted its corm, a beach ball-sized underground tuber. Since then, Spike has collected enough energy from the sun to begin the bloom cycle again.

What’s different about Spike this time?

We’ll track Spike’s growth and development, and compare those numbers to last time. Spike started this second bloom cycle only 2 1/2 years after the first one. Usually, it takes three to five years for a plant to “recharge” and flower again, so Spike is on a faster pace. We’ll see what that means.

Didn’t you just have a titan arum bloom?

Yes; on a memorable day in August 2017, Sunshine opened up on the same day as the partial solar eclipse. The Garden began collecting titan arums in 2003, as part of a worldwide conservation effort to preserve the species. Many of our titans were acquired at the same time, which is why the Garden has had several ready to bloom in a short time period.

Comparison chart showing growth of the Chicago Botanic Garden's titan arum blooms.