Toronto Zoo | Corpse Flower

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Pablo’s Growth:
Corpse Flower Diaries

The Toronto Zoo’s Horticulture Division currently cares for six specimens of Amorphophallus titanum – the titan arum, or, more descriptively, the corpse flower. This September, one of our five-year-old species surprised us all and started to bloom early. Approximately four years early! After a week or so, of our Horticultural experts observing the flower to see when it might begin its 8-36 hour bloom, on September 13, 2018, our Horticulture staff confirmed Pablo “Pe-ew” Caso (named by Toronto Zoo Facebook fans) was about to open.

Visitors came from far and wide to meet Pablo and experience the world-recognized iconic scent of the corpse flower. As you might guess from its name, the corpse flowers’ blossom doesn’t exactly smell like roses. Instead, this species relies on carrion beetles and flies for pollination, which it attracts with an aroma that – yes – resembles rotting meat!

This was the first recorded bloom of a corpse flower in the GTA and a very exciting time for the Toronto Zoo, as thousands of visitors came to see and smell this special experience!

Watch Pablo’s Journey:

Pablo “Pe-ew” Caso has ended the full bloom journey! Take a look at the time-lapse videos below to see the changes from beginning to end, spanning over 17 days.

Pablo Diaries: #CorpseWatch

September 16:

Pablo “Pe-ew” Caso continues the process of closing and collapsing as the bloom journey ends.

September 15:

Pablo's still standing! Pablo has not yet fallen over and still has a mild scent. A small window in the side has been removed to allow guests to see the male and female reproductive parts of the flower.

September 13: 7PM

Pablo’s stench isn’t too strong quite yet, we anticipate it will be at its prime stinkiness once it’s fully bloomed in about 4 hours from now and that stench will continue into tomorrow.

Pablo’s temperature continues to rise. It’s currently 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and this will continue to rise through the night. At the peak of its bloom, it will reach approx. 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

September 13: 4PM

Hold your noses, Pablo is STARTING TO BLOOM!

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso has now begun its approximate 8-36 hour bloom. We are now accommodating extended viewing hours during the bloom period and will be open late tonight with projected last admission to the line at 9:00pm. Pablo is now viewable in the Zoo’s Greenhouse which is accessible from the Tundra Zoomobile Station!

September 13: AM

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso grew another ¼ inch since yesterday morning, reaching 42 1/2 inches tall.

There are a few key indicators that we are nearing the bloom period. The growth has basically come to a standstill, the deep red colour is intensifying daily, and the skirt is starting to pull away from the spadix. The energy will now shift from the growth of the plant, into developing the male and female flowers when the bloom opens, which is crucial for the pollination of the plant. We anticipate that the base of the flower will continue to swell over the next couple of days as well. Temperatures taken earlier this morning indicate it is 3 degrees warmer at the core of the plant than it is at the base of the plant. This increase in heat is likely resulting in an increased presence of flies around Pablo, because Pablo emits a smell not yet detectable to human noses.

We will continue to monitor the flower several times per day to attempt to accurately pinpoint when the bloom period will commence. Because Pablo has not been a textbook case in terms of pattern of growth for the Amorphophallus titanum, the bloom is likely to be a bit more unpredictable and could happen at any time. We will make an announcement once we have confirmation when the 8-36 hour bloom period begins, and until then, you can visit Pablo during regular Zoo hours. Please note this is a separate ticketed exhibit.

September 12:

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso grew again last night by ½ an inch and now reaches 42.25 inches in height. The sheath has now become dehydrated and begun to separate from the flower, while the base continues to fill out, and the burgundy colour around the skirt continues to intensify!

While Pablo continues to grow daily, Pablo hasn’t been a textbook case in terms of pattern of growth for the Amorphophallus titanum. This has kept our horticultural Zoo staff guessing when the flower is going to stop growing, but then our corpse flower is an “early bloomer”, as it is one of the youngest to bloom at only six years old which is four years ahead of schedule.

September 11:

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso keeps growing! Despite the growth rate slowing down since the weekend, Pablo grew another 3/4 of an inch last night and now reaches 41 ¾ inches tall.
Something new to note is the visitors Pablo has started receiving. A fly was spotted hanging out on Pablo yesterday afternoon, and an additional fly visitor joined in this morning. Apparently they are waiting for the restaurant to open… Flies and other bugs are actually tricked into thinking the flower is food, which is the plants way of spreading the pollen. As the smell starts to intensify, it will attract more of the pollinators.

Although flies are on Pablo now, these aren’t the typical pollinators of the corpse flower, nor can humans smell the flower as of now. The fearful smell that only occurs during its bloom attracts carrion beetles in particular. Preserved beetles will be viewable during the bloom courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Did you know we are one of few Zoo’s that have a corpse plant, and the first and only Zoo in Canada to have one in its botanical collection? Although on the small side, our corpse plant weighs 23.4lbs. The heaviest corpse plant to bloom weighed over 300lbs

September 10:

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso's growth continued to slow down last night down to ¼ of an inch. As we continue to see Pablo’s growth become less each day, we estimate the bloom to occur closer to the end of the week. Our Curatorial Gardener, Paul is closely monitoring Pablo’s temperature and as of this morning, it was 64.94 degrees Fahrenheit. Did you know that when blooming, the corpse flower will heat up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit? The average human body temperature is 98.6 degrees. He will continue to monitor the temperature and colour throughout the day and keep a close eye on any further changes.

September 9:

It seems Pablo “Pe-ew”caso's growth is starting to slow down a bit! This morning, we measured exactly 3/4 of an inch growth overnight, for the second time in a row! While our experts are still not yet able to predict a bloom date, we are seeing signs that indicate we are moving forward. Take a look at some of the changes we're observing as we get closer to the bloom!

The sheath (at the base of the flower) is starting to shrivel and peel back, and the base is beginning to swell, which is where the female and male parts of the flower are kept.

The skirt is intensifying in colour and continuing to fill out. This is significant, as the colour of the skirt is just one of the cues our experts use to predict timing of the bloom. This colour will continue to intensify, until it becomes a deep burgundy red (blood red). Last, we observe Pablo's growth up in height. We know once Pablo stops growing taller, we are getting closer to the bloom.

September 8

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso is now 40 inches tall! We measured another 3/4 of an inch growth overnight. The corpse flower is native to Sumatra, Indonesia. It is threatened by habitat loss due to clearing of timber and oil palm plantations.

September 7

Pablo “Pe-ew”caso grew 1.75 inches overnight. It now reaches 39.25” tall.

The colour is starting to intensify on the spathe (skirt) and the base of the flower is starting to swell, which indicates the flower is progressing towards opening.

September 6

Our corpse flower grew 2 inches overnight! It is currently 37.5 inches tall. Watch below for an update from our Curatorial Gardener Paul on the status of our corpse flower.

Note: We will be accommodating extended viewing hours during the bloom period. Once we confirm when the plant is projected to start its 8-36-hour bloom, we will announce on this webpage and on social media details inviting the public to visit and experience this unique opportunity. Please note this will be a separate ticketed exhibit.

September 4

What’s that smell? It’s our corpse plant! For the first time ever at the Toronto Zoo, a corpse plant (Amorphophallus titanum) is projected to start to bloom in the next two weeks. This species only blooms for 8-36 hours and this is the first time this species has bloomed in the GTA, and the fifth time one has bloomed within Canada! Grown from seed, it can take six to ten years for a plant to produce its first flower, after which it can take several more years for it to bloom again.

Once we confirm when the plant is projected to start its 8-36-hour bloom, we will announce details inviting the public to visit and experience this unique opportunity.