The corpse flower isn’t called that because it’s dead, but rather because its smell resembles that of rotten flesh, which draws flies for pollination. But the seven existing species of corpse flowers are endangered due to human encroachment. Preventing them from going extinct is a real job, as the plants are tropical and their seeds tend to die when dried or frozen. Numbers are extremely low, and they go years between blooming, which puts their genetic diversity at stake, so a consortium of botanical gardens are working together in a project called TREES to save corpse flowers.
To help breed on this unpredictable schedule, the Chicago Botanic Garden is creating a store of corpse flower pollen, which can be sent across the country when another specimen that isn’t closely related blooms. These targeted cross-pollination efforts could lead to more genetically robust offspring. While TREES has yet to lead to a crossing of corpse flowers, the Chicago Botanic Garden has used the methodology to strategically cross another plant called Brighamia insignis, also known as a cabbage-on-a-stick plant, which is critically endangered.
Only time will tell if this scheme can save the corpse flower. Read more about the effort at Atlas Obscura.
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