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November 21, 2005

Giant 'Corpse Flower' blooming in Washington, D.C.


The titan arum, the world's largest unbranched flower, is popularly known as the "Corpse Flower" because when fully open it is said to smell like a rotting corpse.

That makes sense.

Washington Post reporter Leef Smith, in today's front–page Metro section story, described the plant's odor as "reminiscent of long–dead rat with just a hint of brie."

The Smithsonian Institutions' titan arum has just bloomed (above).

Its unusual central flower section, called the spadix, grew several inches per day until it blossomed around 7 p.m. this past Saturday.

Over 6,000 people visited the U.S. Botanic Garden yesterday to see the remarkable plant.

It's been tended patiently for the past 12 years by Michael Bordelon, greenhouse collections manager at the Botany Department of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

I'd say this guy deserves a raise, wouldn't you?

There's someone I wouldn't mind looking after my plants while I was away in Richmond giving anesthesia.

But I digress.

The Smithsonian bulb weighs 100 pounds, three times more than the titan arum which bloomed in 2003 in Washington.

That event drew 10,000 visitors from around the world to Washington, D.C.

The plant blooms for only 24 to 48 hours so you'd best stop by today if you want to catch it at its very best.

It's OK to inhale, by the way.

The current titum arum, pictured at the top of this post, measures 4 feet, 4 inches from base to pointy tip according to the Post story.

The 2003 bulb (below)


reached almost five feet in height.

It now rests in peace in the U.S. Botanic Garden's collection, quiescent until it next decides to flower.

The current blooming specimen is in the botanic garden's medicinal plant house on the Mall.

Spokeswoman Jan Clark told the Post that it "looks really funky" and noted that the 2003 spadix was reddish–grey, while this year's is green.

A very nice shade of green, I might add.

The 2003 bulb's blooming was chronicled in a fascinating series of time–lapse videos which can be seen here.

In a nod to those who desperately need to see and smell this plant, the U.S. Botanic Garden, which normally closes at 5 p.m., is remaining open until 7 p.m. tonight.

Officials there say this year's flower is more pungent than the bloom in 2003.

W. John Kress, chairman of the Natural History Museum's Botany Department, told Smith, "As the day goes on, it gets more and more pungent, particularly around sunset. Some people say it smells bad. I say it smells intense. Maybe I'm part beetle."

Get over there.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is at 100 Maryland Avenue SW; 202-225-8333. 10 a.m.– 5 p.m. daily (seven days a week); admission is free.

November 21, 2005 at 02:31 PM | Permalink


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Amazing flower. I missed an opportunity to see this flower 3 days ago at CSU Fullerton. Fortunately, there will be another corpse flower will bloom this weekend in San Diego. I have to drive for 2 hrs to see it.

Posted by: powerful directory | Jun 9, 2006 11:49:53 AM

Tom Otterness designed a sculpture for the Bronx Botanical Garden based on this flower. I've seen the proposal; I'm sure the actual sculpture is just as compelling!

Posted by: Katherine | Jan 8, 2006 11:59:57 PM

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