Monday, April 4, 2011

The Smell of Death

The titan arum, or "corpse flower" is about to bloom here in our campus greenhouse and everyone is very excited. Well, anyone that cares or needs something to do on their lunch break. This plant, native to Sumatra, is a relatively rare plant and if you can even find one, consider yourself lucky. Also, consider yourself a nerd for having sought it out. This orb-like plant only blooms for approximately 24 hours every 150 years. They can grow upwards of 3 meters high and when in bloom omits a noxious smell like that of rotting flesh. Still, people have been known to stand in line for hours just to sneak a peak of the flower and whiff its stench. (some information borrowed from Wikipedia)

I went to see the corpse flower today with some people from my office. It hadn't opened just yet but was omitting its signature scent. I took a picture with my phone:

There was a short line to get into the greenhouse and it was moving very slowing. After a moment, I saw Lenore exiting from the other end.

(Lenore walks up to me and coworkers.)

Lenore: (happily, to me) Hello there, mister! Did you come to see that flower?

Me: Yes, I've never seen one.

L: It's called a, a, a, now give me a minute...a cops or a coops--.

Me: (excitedly showing off my knowledge) A corpse flower.

L: Yes, that's what they call it! That's exactly right!

Worker 1: (to Lenore) So did you get a chance to sniff the flower?

L: Well, yes, I tried but you know what. Let me tell you something. It didn't smell very good. No, not at all. It was a little like a cat box or something. (laughing) Phew!

Worker 2: Lenore, it's called a corpse flower because it smells like a corpse or suppose to smell bad like a dead body.

L: (a little shocked) Oh. Is that right? That's, that's, really why they call it that? I thought, you know, because it's a flower it would smell nice or something. Why would you want to smell that?

Me: Some flowers just don't smell good. Have you ever smelled a garlic flower? They stink too.

L: Like a dead person?

Me: No, more like strong garlic.

L: Oh, but I like garlic. I don't like corpse-es.


Originally posted June 29, 2009

Here's what it might look like when in blooms:

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