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Research

Late-night data collection

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Overnight, plant biology graduate student Kyle Martin took tissue samples and collected other data from Carolus. The sibling of Wee Stinky is the second Titan Arum in Cornell’s Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory Collection to bloom.

Pollination and pollen collection

Thursday morning, Plant Biology PhD candidates Gwynne Lim and Kyle Martin and greenhouse grower Kendra Hutchins hand-pollinated Wee Stinky.

Martin cuts a window into spathe.

Martin cuts a window into spathe.

Martin cut a small window through the rind-like tissue at the base of the spathe (much like carving a pumpkin) for better access to the female flowers at the base of the spadix. They dusted the receptive female flowers with pollen collected from Wee Stinky the last time it flowered in March 2012 and stored at -80 Celsius to help maintain its viability.

Martin reaches through window in spathe to dust female flowers with pollen.

Martin reaches through window in spathe to dust female flowers with pollen.

They taped the hunk of rind back into the window when they were finished to help maintain moisture levels inside the chamber.

Titan Arums do not naturally self-pollinate. Because the male flowers don’t shed their pollen until after the female flowers on the same plant are no longer receptive, such unions are separated by time. By artificially self-pollinating the plant, researchers hope to find out if there is also some genetic or chemical barrier that prevents this species from ‘selfing’.

Hutchins pollinates flowers in the front of the plant from above.

Hutchins pollinates flowers in the front of the plant from above.

Later in the day when the female flowers were no longer receptive, male flowers began to shed their pollen. Students and growers harvested a bumper crop to store and share when other researchers and institutions need Titan arum pollen for cross-breeding.

Cream-colored male flowers shed pollen onto no longer receptive female flowers below them. Photo: Rob Raguso,

Cream-colored male flowers shed pollen onto no longer receptive female flowers below them. Photo: Rob Raguso,

Good morning Wee Stinky

Stop by. We’re open to the public on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitor information.

Katalin Boroczky and Monica Carvalho collecting samples at 6 a.m.

Katalin Boroczky and Monica Carvalho collecting samples at 6 a.m.

Overnight data collection continues

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Even though Wee Stinky is waning, graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs continue to put in yeoman’s effort collecting data overnight. You can watch them do their work via the webcam. Most of the action takes place on even hours Eastern Standard Time.

The data collectors you will see in the wee hours are:

Undergraduates (all seniors):

  • Trisha Basu
  • Karen Chang
  • Brian Worthington
  • Maggie Henderson

Graduate students:

  • Kyle Martin
  • Geoff Broadhead
  • Callum Kingwell
  • Monica Carvalho
  • Gwynne Lim

Postdoc:

  • Katalin Boroczky

Too hot to handle

Titan Arums generate heat when they flower to create updrafts that waft the foul odor up into rainforest canopy to attract insect pollinators.

How hot did Wee Stinky get last night? Well you or I certainly wouldn’t want to run a fever that high.

Greenhouse manager Andy Leed used a thermal imaging camera on loan from Cornell’s Combined Heat and Power Plant (CCHPP) to create these images.

Around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the top of the spadix was over 90 degress F:

thermal imaging 10:30

By midnight, the temperature had spiked to over 105 degrees F. (Next two images.)

thermal imaging midnight

thermal imaging

By 9 a.m. Thursday morning, the temperature dropped back below 90 degrees F — much cooler than researcher Rob Raguso’s face (lower right).

thermal imaging 9 am