Thousands line up to see corpse plant's brief bloom

UPDATE — Tuesday, 7:25 p.m.: Greenhouse officials said the line has further increased in size, and the wait for the corpse plant is now two-and-a-half hours. It is unclear what will occur at 8:00 p.m., when the viewing was planned to end, according to the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden Facebook page.

Greenouse Manager Dave Freville said greenhouse staff is working to move visitors through as quickly as possible.

The west range of the Plant Science Greenhouses was overwhelmed by visitors eager to see the rare-blooming corpse plant Tuesday afternoon, creating a line estimated to be between 60 and 90 minutes in length. 

Corey Damocles / The State News

Greenhouse Manager Dave Freville estimated as of 3:30 p.m., 400 visitors were in line and 2,500 had already seen the plant. Freville was standing out in the pouring rain to direct a steady stream of arrivals towards the back of the lengthy line.

"We had no idea it was going to be anything like this," Freville said.

Visitors to the greenhouses emphasized the wait was well worth it, with multiple attendees referring to viewing the flower as a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience.

The hallway between greenhouses, regularly kept at 120 degrees, had its heat shut off as the line of visitors stretched down the facility's length. Even with the heat off and a large fan placed at the front of the line, the air towards the line's end was sweltering.

Lansing resident Helen Graham brought her three young grandchildren to see the plant, and estimated she had spent 90 minutes in line.

"It's burning up back there, we almost fainted," Graham said, referring to the end of the line.

A greenhouse employee who was distributing cups of water to those in line said she "was dripping (in sweat) from head to toe."

Jan Szyren, who has cared for the plant for years, was blown away by the turnout.

"We expected a lot of people, but nothing like this," she said. "This is crazy."

A horticulturist in the Plant Biology department, she said she was excited by the enthusiasm visitors were showing for the plant.

"It's a joy to be able to share something that's been locked up here for the past four years," Szyren said. "I didn't expect it to bloom again so soon."

The line was filled with families and elderly visitors, prompting Greenhouse Coordinator Lisa Voldeck to distribute water to visitors. She said the plan if the line continued to grow would be to "try to keep up."

Freville attributed the large turnout to the plant's promotion on social media, which was subsequently picked up by multiple media outlets.

"It used to be ten years ago, they told us not to get on (social media)," Freville said. "Now they have classes on how to go about doing it to promote the university. It's changed completely."

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