Second-chance smells? Gustavus Adolphus College’s corpse flower is also a reluctant bloomer

corpse flower bud
Twin corpse flowers named Gemini grow in the Gustavus Adolphus College greenhouse. One twin is expected to bloom soon. The other is growing either a leaf or flower.
Courtesy of Gustavus Adolphus College

If you weren’t one of the 20,000 people to catch a whiff of Horace, the corpse flower that bloomed at St. Paul’s Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in May, you might get a second chance. Emphasis on might.

Gemini at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter appears to be getting ready for its 15 minutes of fame. The yard-high bloom with its purple frills can be seen on a livestream, just like Horace. 

Also like Horace, Gemini seems to be taking its time.

“The current inflorescence is long overdue for opening, and we’re wondering whether it will,” said professor emeritus Brian O’Brien, referring to the bloom. “We have no explanation for the delay at this time.”

Back in May, Como Park’s plant kept Minnesotans watching the livestream for days with bated breath as it coyly unfurled over a much longer period of time than initially expected. It then recoiled mid-show, closing back up before reaching full bloom — likely because of unnatural nighttime lighting, horticulturist Jen Love said.

It’s unclear how much of a show Gemini will put on and when. But it comes from a line of seasoned performers.

Gustavus has three corpse flowers, all started from seed by O’Brien in 1993. Gemini proved to be a vigorous plant, splitting into two and initially putting out two blooms at once. The twins were then planted in different pots. One bloomed once more.

This will be the twins’ third flower, and there may yet be a fourth. The second Gemini is currently growing either a leaf or flower. 

The twins’ sibling, Perry, is also quite the performer, blooming four times since 2007.

Their seeds came to the university through a program to preserve the rare plant species. When in bloom, corpse flowers emit a pungent odor that some describe as a rotting flesh smell.

All three of the plants at Gustavus can be seen on the livestream or in-person between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the school’s greenhouse, located in the Nobel Hall of Science.