Darrow School has rare flower

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NEW LEBANON, N.Y. -- Apparently, April showers bring corpse flowers to the Darrow School's Samson Environmental Center.

The rare flower, so named for a smell likened to rotting flesh or meat which it emits in bloom, has blossomed in the school's sustainable biospheric greenhouse.

A native of Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia, less than 50 of the largest variety of corpse flower, the titan arum, are known to have ever bloomed in the United States. The smaller konjac arum, like the one at Darrow, is typically found only in special botanical gardens, museums, and private exotic greenhouse collections.

"It's really nice to have this species and to teach the evolution of such plant systems," said Craig Westcott, director of Darrow's environmental center. "We've been fortunate in that anything we plant seems to grow here."

The center grows relatives of the corpse flower, the calla lily, and decided to try cultivating its corms or underground plant stem, similar to a bulb. The corms were donated to the school by the father of student Bailey Gardener, who has a home nursery of corpse flowers.

"It's really cool and grows really quickly," said senior Amelia O'Leary, who helped plant a new konjac arum corm this week.

The large green bud of the konjac arum 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. It's also distinguished by a dark purple, almost black, blossom, which wraps around the center tongue.

Westcott said the plant's somewhat offensive fragrance attracts its primary pollinators: flies.

The corpse flower, which also has a short bloom, will soon wilt only to generate a new growth in the summer.

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