Three corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) plants, also known as titan arum or the stinky plant, are preparing to bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory. It is the first bloom for all three of the plants, which vary in age from five years up to 12 years old. This appears to be the first time in North America that an institution has three corpse flower plants all blooming at the same time.
The plants are now on view to the public. The estimated dates for when the first bloom will begin opening are August 20 - 23, 2017.
The magic of the corpse flower comes from its great size - it is largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom. When it went on display, the plans were between 2 and 3 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 corpse flower does not have an annual blooming cycle. The bloom emerges from, and energy is stored 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, 2013, and 2016.
See what the plants look like now on our live stream (on non-peak-bloom nights, the lights on the corpse flowers will be dimmed to avoid interfering with the plants' blooming cycles and thus it may be difficult to view them)
Chemistry of its smell
Want to learn a bit more about the plant and its unique smell? Check out this great video we helped create:
We shared the 2016 plant's life cycle via a live webcam, which has now ended. In addition to this video from the morning it started opening, August 2, 2016, you can find all the live webcam videos on our YouTube channel. If you visited, find your date and see yourself with the corpse flower!
Photo of 2013 corpse flower bloom:
The U.S. Botanic Garden previously displayed a corpse flower bloom in 2016 and 2013. More than 130,000 people came to see the plant in person, and more than 650,000 viewers accessed the live webstream.