Mystery of the corpse flowers

Crowds gathered to see the corpse flower in July 2016
August 07, 2017 | 03:23 pm /
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The corpse flower takes ten years to build up enough energy to bloom, but mysteriously, dozens of them bloomed within weeks of each other in 2016

Friday 29 July 2016 was a sultry evening in New York City, rounding out an oppressively sticky month. Yet residents of the five boroughs flooded to a sweltering greenhouse in the Bronx in their thousands. They were determined to see a putrid-smelling flower in the throes of its brief but spectacular reproductive display.

Amorphophallus titanum – which translates as "giant misshapen penis" – holds the record for the world's largest unbranched inflorescence (flowering structure). Hardly any of these plants exist in cultivation, and their blooms are rare and unpredictable, occurring fleetingly once every five to 10 years.

These are crowd-commanding credentials for sure. But probably most of the people racing to the New York Botanical Garden that Friday went to experience the infamous stink: the sharp smell of decomposing flesh, released during the peak of the 24-36-hour bloom. This powerful pong gives the plant its popular name: "corpse flower".

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Topics: flower

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