Rare Corpse-Scented Flower in Bloom at Smith College
Editor's note: View the flower without inhaling its stench by checking its Web-cam online at https://www.smith.edu/garden/Conservatory/amorphophallus.html
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – The long-awaited blooming of the rare corpse-scented Titan Arum occurred Tuesday, Aug. 9, in the Lyman Conservatory at the Botanic Garden of Smith College.
The flower, which is expected to last only a few days, is the color of bloody muscle and emits the odor of decaying flesh. Before it opened, the flower looked like a giant ear of corn growing from a base that weighs about 40 pounds.
“We predict a miasma of stench will soon perfume the Palm House,” says Madelaine Zadik, manager of education and outreach at the Botanic Garden. “Bring your own gas mask and enjoy.”
Native to the lowland rainforests of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, this endangered species, Amorphophallus titanum, produces one of the largest blooms in the plant kingdom, according to Zadik.
In the wild, its odor attracts carrion beetles, which pollinate the plant. Smith’s Titan Arum is expected to attract flies and visitors. Some 20,000 people viewed the most recent known flowering of the plant in this country, which occurred a year ago at the University of Connecticut (UConn), said Michael Marcotrigiano, director of the Botanic Garden and professor of biological sciences.
Smith’s Titan Arum was raised from another plant donated by UConn’s botanical conservatories a few years ago, according to Marcotrigiano. The plants typically grow for five or more years before blooming; Smith’s plant is nearly 10 years old.
Throughout its lifetime, the plant produces a single leaf at a time. Leaves can grow as tall as 20 feet on a stem as wide as a human arm and live for about a year before being replaced.
Although Marcotrigiano has never smelled the Titan Arum, he has seen photographs of others inhaling its stench. “People can stand close enough to get a photo but usually they can’t hold their smile that long,” said Marcotrigiano. “Security guards have to wear respirators.”
This long-awaited flower may not reappear for years. Because of the brief window of time the flower will be alive, the Lyman Conservatory may offer extended hours, said Marcotrigiano. Check the following Web site for details: https://www.smith.edu/garden/Conservatory/amorphophallus.html
The Titan Arum is displayed in the Palm House of the Lyman Conservatory, which is located on College Lane. Open to the public daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., the building is wheelchair accessible.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.
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