Do you dare get a whiff of this flower famed for its stink?
For the first time within seven years, the University of Minnesota’s "corpse flower" or titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) will make a malodorous appearance – and the public is invited to visit this week, Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., to smell the furious stench.
The corpse flower, native to the rainforests of Sumatra and reaching up to 6 feet in height, is infamous for its scent, which is similar to rotting meat.
Curator Lisa Aston Philander of the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory said botanical gardens worldwide devote entire festivals to the noxious plant.
“Tens of thousands of visitors show up just to inhale this awful ‘carrion’ smell,” Philander said.
The corpse flower produces a sole leaf that lasts year-long and dies back when the underground corm has managed to amass enough energy. By this time the flower emerges.
It is also a thermogenic plant that warms itself to a temperature approximating humans’ in order for the odor to volatilize. So the hotter it is, the stinkier the flower gets, added Philander.
The scent also changes over about two days that the plant is in bloom. The off-putting smell, however, appears to have a good natural purpose. In its natural environment, the plant uses it to stand out in the wealth of scents that compete for the attention of its pollinator, the sweat bee, which can smell it from miles.
The corpse flower at the the University of Minnesota has not bloomed in years, so the university invites the public to the rare occurrence before the plant retreats into dormancy again.
Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, another school in Minnesota, also had its own corpse flower bloom in late 2013. In 2008, another one at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory of Como Park in St. Paul raised quite a stink.
Last year, two corpse flowers made the headlines when they bloomed in all their stinky glory. The first, in June, was the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh's 10-foot-tall titan arum, and the other was Alice, one of the Chicago Botanic Garden's corpse flowers, which bloomed in September.
Photo: Dave Pape | Flickr