Rare, smelly ‘corpse plant’ set to bloom at Foster Botanical Garden

File photo of a titan arum or "corpse plant" in bloom

One of the world’s smelliest flowers is expected to bloom at Foster Botanical Garden.

A flower on one of the garden’s Titan Arum plants could bloom as early as Thursday. It’s about 5’9” tall, although others have attained heights of more than 10 feet.

The titan arum, or Amorphophallus titanum, is also known as the “corpse plant” for its distinctive aroma when in full bloom.

It is native to Indonesia, the Philippines and other islands of the South Pacific. The plant blooms sporadically and flowers only for a few days.

It consists of a fragrant spadix (spike) of small flowers, which resembles a large loaf of French bread. The spadix is wrapped by a spathe, which looks like a large petal and is green on the outside and dark burgundy red on the inside.

The plant is pollinated by carrion-eating beetles and flesh flies. In order to attract pollinators, titan arum uses several tricks to convincingly mimic a rotting piece of meat. The flower’s deep red color and texture, along with the powerful scent contribute to the illusion.

This will be the first blooming of this particular titus arum plant, which has had eight years of growth from seed. After the initial blooming, there may be considerable variation in blooming frequency.

Some plants may not bloom again for another 7 to 10 years, although others may bloom every two to three years. There have been cases of back-to-back blooms occurring within a year.

Analyses of chemicals released by the spadix shows the fragrance includes dimethyl trisulfide (found in limburger cheese), trimethylamine (found in rotting fish) and isovaleric acid (found in sweaty socks).

Click here to keep track of the progress of the titan arum plant.

If you’d like to meet the titan arum face-to-face, Foster Botanical Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week at 50 N. Vineyard Blvd.

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