Rare Corpse Flower Ready to Bloom in NYC — and Release Its Infamous Stench

What to Know

  • New York Botanical Garden visitors will witness with their eyes, and noses, the blooming of one of the largest and smelliest flowers
  • Known as the corpse flower, this giant bloom releases an infamous odor during its brief 24-to-36-hour peak bloom
  • Some have described the smell of the large flower similar to that of rotting meat

Visitors to The New York Botanical Garden will not only witness with their own eyes – but with their noses – the blooming of one of the largest, and putrid-smelling, flowers in the world.

An Amorphophallus titanum is close to blooming in the NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Known as the corpse flower, this giant bloom releases an infamous odor during its brief 24-to-36-hour peak bloom, which some have described as similar to the smell of rotting meat.

Its strong, distinctive odor, which attracts pollinators that feed on carrion, will be at its most pungent during its peak blooming, the NYBG says. The final opening of the bloom is unpredictable, but is expected to occur in the next week or two.

The bloom cycle occurs extremely quickly. On May 15, 2019, NYBG horticulturists noticed a bud emerging from the soil in the corpse flower’s container, but were uncertain whether it was a leaf or a flower bud. On June 17, they confirmed that it was a flower bud.

According to the NYBG, the corpse flower is the largest unbranched inflorescence -- a cluster of flowers on a spike -- in the plant kingdom, growing 12 feet tall in its natural habitat and about six to eight feet tall in cultivation.

Its unpredictable blooming cycle and notorious stench are part of the plant’s allure. Native to Sumatra in Indonesia, a young corpse flower takes about seven to 10 years to store enough energy to begin its bloom cycle, acccording to NYBG. However, the life cycle of the bloom is only one or two days. In the first several days of the bloom cycle, the bud grows about four to six inches per day. Then growth slows significantly.

While the blooming of such a flower is a rarity, a number of different corpse flowers bloomed in recent years. A corpse flower bloomed in the Western Hemisphere for the first time on June 8, 1937, at NYBG and a second specimen bloomed in 1939. Almost 80 years later, a new specimen bloomed at NYBG on July 28, 2016, creating a sensation as throngs of people experienced some portion of the plant’s life cycle in person and online. Then, on June 26, 2018, another corpse flower began to bloom at NYBG, creating another spectacle for the floral-loving curious masses.

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