WASHINGTON – Visitors were wrapped around the block at the U.S. Botanic Garden on Monday to catch a glimpse and a whiff of the foul-smelling corpse flower.
Plant enthusiasts and curious onlookers walked in,took a deep breath,to smell – nothing.
The titan arum,more commonly known as the corpse flower,bloomed at the gardens starting on Sunday at 4 p.m. Once it bloomed,curators at the garden said the corpse flower released a putrid smell,similar to a rotting corpse.
But by the time the garden opened at 10 a.m.,the plant didn’t smell like much of anything.
“The smell is nothing,at this point,” visitor Andrew Millar,56,a financial advisor from Orcutt,Calif.,said. “Apparently it smells most of the night. It’s a night-blooming flower.”
Curators at the garden said this was normal behavior for the flower and that it reaches its peak odor late from late night into early morning.
“This plant does not like to emit its odor during the day,” Ari Novy,public programs manager at the garden said. “It’s basically reserving the energy that it needs to emit the odor for the key times in the evening and night when the pollinators that it wants to attract are most active.”
The plant,which blooms only once every five to 10 years,was put on display on July 11 but did not bloom until more than a week later. Due to its unpredictable nature,curators could not predict an exact bloom date.
Visitors who wish to see the plant must act quickly,because the bloom lasts only 24 to 48 hours.
John Bateman,42,a meteorologist from Arlington,Va.,visited the plant Monday after hearing all the hype.
“I read in the paper that the last time it bloomed was in 2007,and they don’t really know when it’s going to bloom,it’s really random,” Bateman said. “I thought I’d come down here since it’s in my backyard,basically.”
The 2007 bloom was a plant that belongs to the Smithsonian Institution.
The corpse flower is a tropical plant that originates from Sumatra,India. It can grow to 12 feet in its natural habitat. The titan arum on display at the garden is about 8 feet tall.
Since the plant went on display,about 50,000 people have visited the garden. The livestream video of the plant generated more than 500,000 views since it went live July 11,and a Twitter page was made to track its progress.
The garden is extending its hours until 8 p.m. Monday to cater to the crowds.
Once the bloom is complete,the plant will collapse quickly. It will then be taken back to its previous home,a greenhouse that is not open to the public. There,gardeners will take care of it just as they had before,and wait until the next bloom years from now.
“We will care for this plant in our offsite facility for as long as it lives,” Novy said. “Hopefully it will choose to grace us with another flower in the not-too-distant future.”
Reach Reporter Jacqueline DelPilar at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.