Corpse Flower Bloom: Smelly Flower Blooms For First Time At New York Botanical Garden [Watch It Live]

Normally, the smell of decaying flesh would make someone run in the other direction. However, hundreds of people are gathering at New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) to take a whiff of a unique, smelly flower known as the corpse flower.

Scientists refer to the flower as Amorphophallus titanum, which is a name that translates to “giant misshapen phallus.” The corpse flower, which is native to Sumatra in Indonesia, has a very unpredictable bloom cycle and typically only blooms once every seven to 10 years. According to Fox News, the first time a specimen from the corpse flower bloomed in the Western Hemisphere was in 1937 at the New York Botanical Garden, and then a second flower bloomed at the same location in 1939.

The New York Botanical Garden first acquired the corpse flower that is currently blooming in 2007. Since then, the flower, which uses its stench to attract pollinators that feed on dead animals, has been monitored closely by the NYBG staff. The horticulturalists first noticed a bud on the flower on July 15. Shortly after, they moved the plant from the Botanical Garden’s Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where it is currently on display. The flower started blooming Thursday night, and because the phenomenon typically only lasts 24 to 36 hours, people are rushing to the NYBG to take a look and catch a smell.

“Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Our corpse flower (finally) started blooming! More info shortly,” the NYBG representatives tweeted Thursday before adding that they had extended their hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. “Bloom cycle is expected to last 24–36 hours, so tomorrow (Friday, July 29) should also be a great time to see it!”

Bloom cycle is expected to last 24–36 hours, so tomorrow (Friday, July 29) should also be a great time to see it!

The corpse flower is one of the world’s largest flowers and can grow up to 12 feet in their natural habitat and eight feet in cultivation. Although the plant looks like one giant flower, it is actually several flowers, which cluster around the base of the stalk, but are hidden by the dark red “skirt,” which isn’t a petal but a modified leaf, according to Life Science, reported via Yahoo News. The corpse flower is not only one of the tallest flowers in the world, it is also one of the stinkiest. The foul odor has been compared to rotting meat and decaying flesh, smells that attract pollinators.

“The flowering structure lasts for only two days, warming to body temperature as it prepares for pollination to further diseminate its strong odor,” according to the NYBG. “The deep burgundy red color and rotting smell contribute to the impression of a piece of meat, attracting flesh-eating beetles and flies to the plant’s rings of male and female flowers hidden deep within the spadix. Interestingly, the male and female flowers are asynchronous to deter self-pollination, which makes pollination in cultivation difficult and unusual.”

“Connoisseurs of rotting animals liken it to a rotting possum because possum tends to be on the fatty side,” Devin Dotson, communications director at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., told the Wall Street Journal. “You can feel the smell on your teeth.”

If you can’t make it to the New York Botanical Garden to see the corpse flower in person, you can still watch the flower in real-time. The NYBG is livestreaming the flower on a Corpse Flower Cam.

Aside from the corpse flower in New York, there are several others across the United States that are preparing to bloom. Scientists are keeping an eye on the flowers in Bloomington, Ind., St. Louis, Sarasota, Fla., and Washington, D.C.

[Image via Shutterstock]