Corpse flower: First smell of rotting flesh

United States Botanical Gardens reveal blooming of titan arum

WRITTEN BY: Corey Demaline
With only a 24-48 hour bloom period, crowds gather around the stench.
Image Source: David Reeves via Flickr
With only a 24-48 hour bloom period, crowds gather around the stench.

 

What attracts people to Washington’s botanical garden? A stinky flower that smells of rotting flesh.

You read right. On July 11th, the United States Botanical Gardens placed a corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium) on display for the world to see. This is no ordinary, gigantic flower.

The stinky plant was first discovered in 1878 and is native to Sumatra, Indonesia. Typically, the titan arum can be found in tropical rainforests. After the corpse flower has matured, it finally blooms for a short 24-48 hours. The strongest time of stench is during its peak bloom. Once staff became aware that the stinky plant was ready to bloom, they quickly moved it to public display.

This flower is rarely seen outside of garden staff, as its hidden away in their production greenhouse located in southeast Washington. The titan arum must live in hot, humid weather in order to survive. The United States Botanical Garden is home to 14 other corpse flowers awaiting their bloom. Upwards of seven U.S. institutions have at least one titan arum in their collection of plants.

This particular corpse flower has been residing in Washington since 2007. The garden has publicly displayed on their website the titan arum’s live web cam and time-lapse video. Over 20,000 visitors from all over the world have circled around the stench of the titan arum since Monday and continue to flock to its rotten smell.

Bill McLaughlin, the garden’s curator of plants, said that even though it smelled sweet at first, the stench soon “began descending from the roof, like a pile of dead animals.”

“It’s hilarious that all these people are here to smell something awful,” he said.

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