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Health, Science & Environment

Franklin Park Conservatory's rare and smelly corpse flower is ready to bloom

A five-foot-tall plant sits among other leafy plants in a greenhouse space.
Allie Vugrincic
A corpse flower is on display in the showroom at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The plant is expected to produce a rare bloom in the next week. It will be maroon-colored and will look and smell like rotting flesh - but will only last for a day or two.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' corpse flower is getting ready to bloom.

The unusual plant was donated by Cornell University in 2016 and first bloomed in 2020.

"So, the corpse flower, or the amorphophallus titanum, is commonly known as the stinky plant that produces a rotting flesh or rotting meat-like smell when it's in full bloom,” said Alexis Lorentzen, a horticulture project manager at the conservatory.

Sounds appealing, right? But seeing and smelling a corpse flower in bloom is a rare opportunity. It takes a plant seven to 10 years to produce its first “flower.” After that, the unpredictable blooms happen every three to five years and last just one or two days.

Lorentzen says the flower on the five-foot-tall corpse plant may bloom in the next four or five days, but factors like heat can affect the tropical plant, which is native to high-humidity regions of Indonesia.

"It kind of has a mind of its own. And so, it's very unpredictable to determine exactly when, but environmental factors can definitely affect it," Lorentzen said.

Lorentzen said the conservatory knew this corpse flower was ready to bloom because the bracts, or protective leaf coverings on its sides, were starting to fall away from the spade.

“There’s shriveling up, drying up, which means that the Corpse Flower is spending all of its energy into producing that bloom,” Lorentzen said.

Meanwhile, the spade, or center part of the plant, is continuing to grow, she said.

Right before the plant blooms, a maroon coloring will appear on the spade. The bloom will also be that maroon color, Lorentzen said.

"And this is also to help attract its pollinators, the flies and carrion beetles, to mimic that color of rotting flesh,” Lorentzen said.

The plant’s bloom attracts quite a crowd. Lorentzen said that when the plant last bloomed during the pandemic, there was a line out the door and around the conservatory.

“People love smelly things for some reason. And so, people are super excited."

Franklin Park Conservatory will post updates about the corpse flower on its social media. The team is also capturing the bloom with time-lapse photography.

Health, Science & Environment Franklin Park Conservatoryplants
Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.