A rare, foul-smelling corpse flower is almost ready to bloom in a Michigan man’s home

A rare, foul-smelling corpse flower is almost ready to bloom in a Michigan man’s home

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Michigan – In just a few weeks, Kevin Hauser is anticipating the reward after years of tending to a plant in his conservatory – his Dexter-area home will be filled with the smell of rotting flesh.

Amorphophallus Titanum, commonly called the corpse flower, is an endangered tropical plant native to Sumatra in Indonesia, which emits a strong, malignant odor when it blooms. Hauser’s plant, called Curbsey, at his home in Webster Township, will flower for the first time over the next few weeks, and the bloom will only last a few days.

Hauser, 53, estimates the plant is about seven years old, but he started caring for it six years ago. The next bloom will be “bittersweet,” he said.

“I took the time to learn about this plant and care for it,” he said, noting the countless hours of research he had done. “I don’t consider myself an expert (in gardening), but I am an expert on this plant.”

There have been some institutions and botanical gardens in Michigan, such as Michigan State University, Frederick Meyer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University, and Matthay Botanical Gardens at the University of Michigan, that have had their own corpse flowers blooming over the years.

Having this plant in someone’s home is less common.

“I’ve never heard of this before, but (apparently) a lot of time, energy and resources have been put into this,” said Michael Palmer, research coordinator at Mathai Botanic Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. “(The plant’s bloom) is very dramatic and unusual to see.”

Palmer describes the flower’s scent as being like “a dead deer on the side of the road in July,” but the plant only emits its scent for a few days as a way to attract pollinators.

It was a trip to the Mathai Botanical Gardens that sparked Hauser’s interest in the foul-smelling plant.

As he was building his house, he knew he wanted to create a tropical getaway. Hauser built his conservatory with the corpse flower in mind, giving it a 25-foot glass ceiling and a climate-controlled space. Before he built the house, Hauser, a partner at a management consulting firm, kept the plant alive with grow lights in his office.

“When I discovered it in Mattai, I thought it would be really cool to serve as a growing centerpiece,” he said, adding that he soon obtained a 2-ounce corm, a type of bulb, from a cloned specimen in North Carolina.

As for the cost, Hauser said he often tells people, “You can’t find a price for the Mona Lisa.”

The plant grows from this corm, which Hauser compares to a potato, and will only flourish when its corm stores enough energy. The Corbian mangrove weighed about 80 pounds during its last dormancy.

When not blooming, the corpse flower produces a large, leafy green plant that can grow up to 15 feet tall before it declines and goes dormant. Hauser fell in love with the plant because of this leafy stage.

Curbsi flowering appears to occur a bit early, but Palmer said the process can vary depending on a variety of factors and the amount of time and effort spent caring for the plant.

“You can’t grow a plant like this to flower without making a commitment,” he said.

Hauser said he believes the key to Curbsey’s success is making sure he has enough space.

He transplants the plant, now about 3 feet tall, into larger pots each rotation with plenty of potassium-rich fertilizer, heat, sun and water. He even uses his own soil that he makes from aspen wood chips and sand mixed with moss.

After flowering, the corpse flower will be in a very delicate state, but if properly cared for, it should be able to bloom more than once in its lifetime, Hauser said.

This unique plant has become appreciated by the Hauser family, he said, adding that his daughters Renee and Evelyn have become associated with the plant.

“It’s really touching, and we’re very proud of him,” said Hauser’s wife, Barbie. “He’s really nursed this, and seeing it come to fruition is almost like anticipating a baby on the way.”

When it comes to gardening, Hauser said he is far from a professional and finds the Curbsey to be one of his easiest plants.

“I’m not an avid botanist. I’ve always loved growing things, and I’ve always had gardens and plants, but I’ve killed a number of plants like most people,” he said with a laugh.

The Hausers are opening their home to people to view Corpsy, but will limit the group to a few hundred family members, friends and others interested in checking out the stinking plant.

Hauser encourages anyone interested to email CorpsyBloom2024@gmail.com if they would like to participate in the event, or receive updates about the corpse flower as it blooms.

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