Morty update: See the working parts inside the rare corpse flower at Botanical Gardens

cutting Morty the corpse flower from Buffalo Botanical Gardens
Kristin Lotz, gardener at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, cuts open the corpse flower to get a better look at the flower’s reproductive organs. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Has Morty the corpse flower been pollinated? Will it bear fruit?

To get a better look at what is happening inside, horticulturists at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens actually cut a hole in the flower.

You can take a look inside Morty, too. Morty will continue to be on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, probably through the end of August, at the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo.

No, the flower wasn’t damaged by cutting the hole, said Jeff Thompson, director of horticulture at the  Botanical Gardens. They waited until the flower had closed up so they wouldn’t compromise the bloom. See a video of Morty the corpse flower in bloom.

view inside Morty the corpse flower from Buffalo Botanical Gardens
The band of yellow at the top of the hole is the flower’s male reproductive organs and the pointy parts below are the female reproductive organs. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

When you look inside, you see a band of yellow tissue near the top of the hole. Those are the male reproductive organs. The pointy things below those are the female reproductive organs.

The plants are generally cross pollinators; more than one plant is needed for pollination to occur. Insects take the pollen from the male parts of one corpse flower to the female parts on another corpse flower, Thompson explained. In fact, the plant has evolved in a way that discourages self pollination, that is, having the male parts of one flower pollinate the female parts of the same flower–  The male and female parts of a plant are fertile at different times.

Since Morty was the only corpse flower around, there were no other flowers for it to cross pollinate with. Could it have been pollinated?

Self pollination of a corpse flower happened at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., Thompson said, so it’s possible.

When the male organs exude pollen, the pollen hangs down in threadlike strands onto the female organs. Plus, there were lots of flies and insects buzzing around that could have helped transfer the pollen, he noted. If the timing was right, the plant could have been pollinated.

If the plant was pollinated, in about two weeks it should grow a red fruit, like you see in the illustration below.

Thompson said the staff will keep the fruit and try to grow a new plant. They have harvested pollen from Morty that they could use in pollinating the next flower, and botanical gardens often trade pollen, he noted.

Morty came from just one of three corpse flower corms acquired by the Botanical Gardens. One is still dormant, but the other is now budding. Thompson said we should know soon whether that bud will be a leaf or a flower.

Life Cycle of corpse flower from Buffalo Botanical Gardens
Illustration courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

 

 

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