Giant Corpse Flower Blooms at U.S. Botanic Garden … and It Stinks (photos)

The corpse flower, titan arum (scientific name Amorphophallus titanum), began blooming at 4 a.m. on Aug. 2, at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. It is the first bloom of this particular plant, which is six years old. The 88-inch-tall wonder went on view to the public on Friday, July 22.

The titan arum, which can grow up to 12 feet tall, is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom and is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. Pollinators are attracted to its odor, which is often compared to the stench of rotting flesh, leading to its common name, ‘corpse flower.’ Once fully open, the plant may remain in bloom for 24 to 48 hours, then collapse quickly. USBG Executive Director Ari Novy and Curator Bill McLaughlin took advantage of a narrow time window to artificially pollinate the plant, employing a blow tube with pollen received by mail from the University of Indiana.

The curious can watch the progress of the plant (but without the smell) via a live stream that can be accessed from the USBG website. The U.S. Botanic Garden previously displayed blooming titan arums in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2013. It currently has 11 such plants housed in its facilities, so we expect this to be a recurring event.

View our photos of the corpse flower by clicking on the photo icons below. (All photos by Jeff Malet.)

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