A botanic garden on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol is expecting a stinky first in coming days as a trio of so-called corpse flowers is due to open and release an odor likened to the smell of rotting flesh.
The event would mark the first time that three of the giant plants, also known as titan arums, have bloomed close to the same time at a North American institution, U.S. Botanic Garden spokesman Ray Mims said on Wednesday.
The biggest plant has surged to about 7 feet in height and is forecast to open between Thursday and next Tuesday. The Botanic Garden, at the foot of Capitol Hill, will be open until 10pm once the flower blooms to handle crowds.
Three corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) plants, also known as titan arum or the stinky plant, are preparing to bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory
It is the first bloom for all three of the plants, which vary in age from 5 years up to 12 years old
‘When you’re above it, you need a gas mask. This is really one of the rock stars of the plant kingdom,’ said Todd Brethauer, a volunteer who carries a jar with a sample of the odor to give garden visitors a whiff.
The stench from the opened corpse flower, or Amorphophallus titanum, has been called a combination of rotting flesh, smelly socks, garlic and dirty diapers. It is a great draw for pollinating carrion beetles and flies.
Corpse flower blooms, once rare, have become more prolific, with seven occurring this summer in the United States. The increase resulted from the greater number of flowers in U.S. institutions, including 15 or 16 plants at Washington’s Botanic Garden, Mims said.
The reek’s main ingredient, dimethyl trisulfide, is known for its high potency and is added to normally odorless natural gas to give it a distinctive smell.
This appears to be the first time in North America that an institution has three corpse flower plants all blooming at the same time
Referred to as the corpse flower or stinky plant, its putrid smell is most potent during peak bloom at night into the early morning. The odor is often compared to the stench of rotting flesh
The corpse flower does not have an annual blooming cycle. The plant blooms only when sufficient energy is accumulated
‘People think flowers are pretty, they smell good. A lot don’t,’ said Jim Adams, the Garden’s horticultural manager.
The interior temperature on a fully blooming flower reaches 115 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius), heat that helps spread the smell, Adams said. Simultaneous blooms are very rare since blooms occur only when individual plants have accumulated enough energy in their underground storage organs.
The plant is the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence, or cluster of multiple flowers that looks like a single one. It is native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the three at the Botanic Garden were raised at one of its facilities.
The enormous spadix, or central spike, on the biggest of the three plants riveted passersby on Wednesday with its ashy maroon color and the glossy green leaf sheathing the base.
‘It looks prehistoric … like something out of a movie,’ said Julie Spack, 30, of Peterborough, New Hampshire, before she snapped a selfie with it.
The plants flowering is unpredictable, spanning from a few years to more than a decade
This plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, and first became known to science in 1878. In its natural habitat, the titan arum can grow up to 12 feet tall
FACTS OF THE STINKY PLANT: THE CORPSE FLOWER
The official name of this smell plant is Amorphopallus titanium or Titan-Arum, which can hit a maximum weight of 200 pounds and grow as tall as 12 feet in its natural habitat, but those in gardens have reached an average of 6 feet.
One might think this massive plant is just one flower, but take a look inside and you will see a fleshy central spike that houses two rings of both male and female flowers that are encased in a leaf that looks like a giant petal.
Once it does bloom, the general life cycle is only one or two days.
And onlookers will not see the flower open up at once – there are several bloom cycles that occur before it releases the pungent smell.
The official name of this smell plant is Amorphopallus titanium or Titan-Arum, which can hit a maximum weight of 200 pounds and grow as tall as 12 feet in its natural habitat, but those in gardens have reached an average of 6 feet
This rare plant is native to Indonesia, as it thrives in the high heat, humidity and needs enough space to grow.
Its distinctive smells are create by a number of different molecules, which draw flies, beetles and even people who want to see what they hype is all about.
One of the molecules, timethylamine, smells like rotting fish and another is isovaleric acid, which resembles the smell cheesy, sweaty odor responsible for terrible gym sock smells, reports National Geographic.
A young corpse flower takes about seven to 10 years to store enough energy to begin its bloom cycle.