Meet the giant flower that smells like death


A visitor to the New York Botanical Garden within a couple of days of June 26 would be forgiven for thinking that maybe the corpse flower isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

Flowers are supposed to smell wonderful, but this one is supposed to smell terrible. 

“Where’s the stench?” visitors might ask themselves as they stand a comfortable distance away from the towering flower in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. It certainly looks menacing with that leering, central spadix sprouting skyward from nightmarishly purple frilly petals, known in horticultural circles as spathes. But where’s that smell? 

Then a door opens. Some curious odor hunters enter, and in comes with them a light breeze that carries a meaty, malodorous mélange of feces, rotting flesh and Limburger cheese to everyone in the vicinity. That sickening stench is the natural discharge of a “horticultural marvel,” Amorphophallus titanum. 

It’s a flower that takes seven to 10 years to reach the point where it can bloom, and when it finally does, it’s a bonanza because the blooming period is mercifully short, no longer than a couple of days. What that means is that one has to be quick in order to get a stinky selfie.