A ‘Corpse Flower’ Is About to Bloom at Dartmouth

Now is your chance to see, and smell, a rare titan arum in its moment of glory.

The blossom of the titan arum (amorphophallus titanum; in German: Titanwurz) is the biggest blossom of the world and it is very seldom. Outside of Sumatra only have been about 125 blossoms in the whole world. This blossom is 2,30 meter (= 7,50 feet) high. Because it is very extraordinary, the university has published it in Internet and German press, and more than 4000 (!) people of Bayreuth have visited the botanical garden to see the blossom. The plant is in flower only for 1 day and 1 night, here from August 01, 2014 till August 02, 2014. This is the first blossom of this 16 years old plant.

Photo via iStock.com/Gueholl

What is it about the titan arum flower that makes crowds rush to be in its presence?

Is it the sheer size of the thing—a gargantuan lettuce monster of a flower, which at present is growing at a rate of 4 inches per day and looks like it might have a thirst for blood?

Is it the fact that it’s incredibly rare—in the entire U.S., just seven titan arum flowers bloomed this year, according to Dartmouth researchers—or that it only opens up once every several years, and only stays that way for about one day?

Or maybe it’s this: when the titan arum flower blooms, according to those who’ve been close to one, it smells like rotten flesh.

“The smell is very overpowering,” says Kim DeLong, greenhouse manager at Dartmouth College, according to an Associated Press report published at Boston.com. “It smells like a dead corpse or feces or urine—all of that together.”

For that reason, the Amorphophallus titanium is also known as the “corpse flower.” When it blooms, its insides are a shade of burgundy that looks like raw meat. It’s designed to attract flies. Whatever your reasons are for gawking at it and sniffing in its direction, the rare flower at Dartmouth’s public rooftop greenhouse is getting ready to bloom this week. The AP reports it could bloom by as early as Thursday. You can even watch a live webcast of the flower, which its caretakers have named “Morphy,” here.

Update: As luck would have it, there is another ‘corpse flower’ in the area that is about to bloom—and this one is right in Boston. The Franklin Park Zoo on Tuesday announced that it, too, is preparing to witness the rare and very smelly unfurling of a titan arum. Zoo staff estimate that the flower, which they have named “Pugsley,” will bloom tonight or tomorrow. It is located in the zoo’s tropical forest section. Zoo staff say they will be tweeting and posting on Facebook about Pugsley’s progress. The flower is one of five on site at the zoo, but Pugsley is the only one accessible by the public, the zoo said in a release.

In the meantime, check out this time-lapse footage from the New York Botanical Garden of their ‘corpse flower,’ which bloomed earlier this summer.