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Watch This Livestream to Witness a Corpse Flower’s First Bloom

Visitors to the Denver Botanic Gardens will soon be getting a noseful.

by Rachel Pick
Aug 18 2015, 6:44pm

The Sumatran corpse flower called the titan arum doesn't bloom like any other plant—it blooms sporadically, sometimes taking up to 10 years of cultivation before it open for the first time. Denver's Botanic Gardens has a massive specimen that's about to bloom any minute now, and they've set up a live feed to capture the event.

This will be the first time Denver's titan arum has opened and unleashed its rotting-carrion stink, which will last for about 48 hours before the bloom wilts. The chemicals that cause the powerful stench have been analyzed, and include those responsible for the smells of Limburger cheese, dirty socks, rotting fish, and mothballs. The smell is what attracts carrion beetles and flesh flies, its main pollinators.

Similar to a calla lily, the titan arum is not really a single flower, though its structure looks like the usual pistil and petal setup at first glance. But the giant phallic structure inside the plant, called a spadix, is really a stem with several rings of flowers on it. The outer "petal" is called a spathe or bract, and acts more like a leaf.

Another fun corpse flower fact: the plant's Latin name Amorphophallus titanum literally means "giant misshapen penis," which is why David Attenborough gave it the moniker "titan arum"—he didn't think he could get away with saying "phallus" on television.

Despite its less than charming qualities, the titan arum remains a major botanical attraction due to its rarity and just plain weirdness. Dare to be different, corpse flower.

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