On Thursday and Friday of last week, more than 3,500 people visited the D.C. Smith Greenhouse’s corpse flower, now named “Dennis,” to experience the impressive stink of its bloom. During the lead-up to the big event, greenhouse staff decided to name the plant in honor of the late Dennis Stimart, who spent 23 years as a faculty member in the CALS horticulture department and admired the Titan Arum for its size and unique qualities.
Visitors included the usual suspects: faculty, staff and students from around campus. But there were also a lot of families from the surrounding community, some incoming freshman on campus for SOAR, and even a couple from St. Charles, Minnesota that drove down specifically to witness the bloom.
This was Dennis’ second bloom. The plant’s first flowering took place in 2010 and drew a crowd of about 2,000. Greenhouse manager Johanna Oosterwyk believes the increased attendance this year was likely due to social media and the use of a live webcam.
CALS, UW-Madison and others spread the word through Facebook and Twitter, encouraging people to monitor the D.C. Smith Greenhouse Facebook Page for updates. From start to finish, the greenhouse Page’s “Likes” shot up from around 100 to more than 500. The webcam, provided by UW-Extension’s Instructional Communications Systems, received 2,685 unique visitors and 595 repeat visitors for a total of 5769 “hits” over the four days it was in operation. It showed a steady stream of visitors–and some of their amusing reactions to the plant’s smell–on Thursday and Friday.
During the bloom, Oosterwyk pollinated Dennis using pollen from sister plants (also grown from “Big Bucky” seeds collected in 2001) growing at Ohio State University, and she also collected pollen. Pollen and seeds from Dennis will be shared with other institutions, as requested.
Horticulture faculty associate Eileen Nelson created this word cloud showing visitors’ comments about the corpse flower that were left in the greenhouse’s guest book: