I am off at SkepchickCon this weekend, so how about a photo? corpse flowerI was really excited to have a chance to see this in person–I had heard about corpse flowers for years, but didn’t have a trip to Sumatra planned, and thought I’d never get to see one.

Amorphophallus titanum, or the Titan Arum produces the world’s largest flower. A plant can go for many years without flowering, and when it  does the bloom lasts only one or two days.
But the plant is most famous—or infamous—for its foul odor.  Hence the nickname, Corpse Flower.

Surprise! UConn has several in it’s greenhouses, and one decided to bloom this year.  The guy in this photo is a little over 6 feet tall, to give you a sense of scale.  There is a great series of time-lapse photos here to show just how amazingly quickly the flower grows.

This plant is pollinated by carrion flies and beetles, so develops a major stink when it flowers to lure carrion feeding insects inside the flower. The male and female parts of the plant are down inside, and pollination occurs when the insects move pollen from plant to plant.

It wasn’t as powerfully stinky as I expected, but certainly did smell like something dead was in there.  The flower fully blooms at night, so it’s only partially open in this photo.  Perhaps the big stink is stronger at night.

One off the bucket list for me!

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Entomologist. Educator. Writer. NERD.


  1. I have a friend in Boston and I am TOTALLY going to suggest a road trip. It’s a big far from CA, but SO COOL! =) Thanks for sharing.

    I do know that during wildfires, the smoke smell is MUCH stronger at night & 1st thing in a.m. as air cools and comes down and settles. During the day, the warmth carries the smells upward.

    The big stink. I like that. Kinda want a t-shirt with that on it. =)

  2. A corpse flower just bloomed (it closed yesterday evening) at the Majorie Mcneely Conservatory in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was really impressive, but I unfortunately couldn’t smell it at all, it seems it was about done when I saw it. It’s quite the year for corpse flowers!

  3. I saw one at the Eden Project, UK, and also didn’t find it as stinky as I was expecting. But even without the bad odour it’s a spectacular flower.

  4. Seems everyone and his brother have corpse flowers blooming this year. We had one at my school a couple of months ago. I saw it on its 3rd day of blooming and most of the smell was gone by then, but I understand it was almost unbearable the first couple of days.

  5. Biobabbler–the flower is long gone now, alas. It only lasts a couple of days.

  6. Although we have a corpse flower that blooms at the nearby Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, I’ve never felt the need to go have a sniff. We lived in NYC for 11 years at the Hotel Chelsea and I got to know all to well what a dead body smells like. Once a year someone checked in the literally checked out. So, I’ve crossed that off my “To Do” list.

  7. Imagine you had never heard of this plant . . . and came across it by chance . . . in the wild!


  8. Wow that is one huge bloom! I wonder how many carrion flies it’s trying to attract at one time.

  9. There are many tropical plant species I hope to see in bloom before I die, and this is one of them!

    The paw paw tree (Asimina triloba), native from the upper Midwest all the way down into Central America, also makes use of carrion-loving insects. Paw paw enthusiasts ( a rare breed) have been known to hang road-killed animals from their paw paw trees in an effort to increase pollination.

    One theory which attempts to explain the presence of a tropical genus so far north is that American Indians used the seeds as game counters, and as the pre-Columbian Indians tended to travel along river valleys, the thickets of paw paws we see today are the progeny of lost seeds, either from gaming or eating, which germinated and made themselves at home.

    I’ve grown paw paws; until the weather gets hot in July the leaves are droopy and the trees seem to be unhappy. Once really hot summer weather arrives they perk up and thrive.

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