UW's corpse flower about to bloom

Jun 7, 2011

Its scientific name is Amorphophallus Titanum, but its most commonly known as a corpse flower.  And it could bloom any day now in the University of Washington's botany green house.

The enormous plant is about four and a half feet tall and looks like something out of The Little Shop of Horrors.

Though it may sound unkind, corpse flowers get their nickname because of the stench they release upon blooming. They're said to smell like rotting meat, latrines, and cooked cabbage. 

Visitors are encouraged to see the rare bloom in person in the campus greenhouse. The plant has become scarce in the wild due to habitat loss - but a word of warning: don't get too close or you may end up smelling like a gym bag.

Why do they smell?

The smell attracts insects to pollinate the plant. The aroma is strongest the first night it blooms but the foul odor can linger for days afterward.

Researches and students at the UW have been cultivating corpse flowers since 1999. And, while they've successfully coaxed 14 previous plants to bloom, they still can't figure out how to trigger the bloom. 

If you'd like to keep tabs on the flower's progress but can't make it in person, see it online at the UW biology department's Facebook page.