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The corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum), also known as the stinky plant, is blooming at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory. It is the first bloom of this particular plant, which is six years old. It takes quite a while to create enough energy for a bloom as spectacular as this one!
The plant went on view to the public Friday, July 22, and peak bloom is currently underway. The bloom began opening early Tuesday morning. The Conservatory will stay open until 11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
The magic of the titan arum comes from its great size – it is largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom. When it went on display, the plant was around 3.5 feet tall. Referred to as the corpse flower or stinky plant, its putrid smell is most potent during peak bloom at night into the early morning. The odor is often compared to the stench of rotting flesh. The inflorescence also generates heat, which allows the stench to travel further. This combination of heat and smell efficiently attracts pollinators, such as carrion beetles and flies, from across long distances.
The titan arum does not have an annual blooming cycle. The titan arum emerges from, and stores energy in, a huge underground stem called a “corm.” The plant blooms only when sufficient energy is accumulated,making time between flowering unpredictable, spanning from a few years to more than a decade. It requires very special conditions, including warm day and night temperatures and high humidity, making botanic gardens well suited to support this strange plant outside of its natural range.
This plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, and first became known to science in 1878. In its natural habitat, the titan arum can grow up to 12 feet tall. Public viewings of this unique plant have occurred a limited number of times in the United States. The U.S. Botanic Garden previously displayed blooming titan arums in 2003, 2005 and 2007, 2010, and 2013.
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