Unspeakably stinky and unpredictable: two corpse flowers are blooming in the U.S.
The Titan Arum, or corpse flower, has become a rockstar in the plant world for its unpredictable displays, and more notoriously, its putrid stench of rotting flesh.
What is it? The very large flowering plant is related to the calla lily, and in fact looks like a supersized and more macabre version, with a large central spike surrounded by a frilly maroon skirt of a leaf.
What's the big deal? Right now, two corpse flowers are blooming in California.
What are people saying? Ari Novy, president and CEO at the San Diego Botanic Garden, spoke to NPR's Daniel Estrin about witnessing the symphony of stench in real time.
His own description of the corpse flower's perfume:
The way I describe it is it smells like if you took your teenager's dirty laundry and you put it in a big black garbage bag, and then you added in some hamburger meat, maybe some fish, a little garlic and some parmesan cheese. And you left that by the side of the road on a very hot desert day for about 24 hours. And then you came back to it. That's not even exaggerating. That is really what the smell was.
On why the corpse flower has evolved to smell this rank:
There are insects out there that really like the smell of rotting flesh or other fetid or rotting odors. And those insects can pollinate plants. There are several plants that utilize this strategy of using rotting flesh odors that humans find repulsive to attract a bunch of insects who actually love that smell.
On the public reaction to the bloom:
This is like the rock star plant of the plant world. It's kind of like a panda if you were in a zoo. It's amazing, people come from all over the place. We had one bloom about 18 months ago and a guy saw it on the webcam in Texas and immediately got in his car so that he could make it for the blooming. And he drove day and night and got to San Diego 14 hours later. This plant really brings out people, and for a smell that's so putrid and disgusting for human beings, somehow we're still pretty attracted to it.
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So, what now?
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