Rare corpse flower is about to bloom at Cincinnati Zoo

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The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden said its corpse flower is getting ready to bloom.

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden said its corpse flower is getting ready to bloom.


The much-anticipated blooming of a rare plant that takes years to gather enough energy to produce one giant foul-smelling bloom is about to happen at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

The zoo announced this week that its titan arum, also known as a corpse flower, has reached four feet tall and is getting ready to release its stench.

The plant spends seven to 10 years storing up energy before opening into one large deep red bloom that lasts just a day to a day and a half.

“The odor has been described as a combination of Limburger cheese, garlic, rotting fish, and smelly feet,” a Facebook post shared by the zoo stated. “The plant is trying hard to attract its native Sumatran pollinators: carrion beetles and flesh flies that are attracted to the stench of decaying meat.”

Cincinnati Zoo horticulturist Jerome Stenger said in a news release that many people are eager to get a whiff.

“We’ve all heard how bad the smell is, but it’s just one of those things that you want to experience in order to describe it in your own words,” he said in the release. “And the fact that the occurrence is so rare, sometimes just blooming once in a decade, makes everyone want to see it.”

The Cincinnati Zoo got its corpse flower, dubbed Morticia, in 2019 from the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The zoo announced Monday that Morticia was getting ready to open, then shared an update Tuesday, saying the plant had grown two more inches since the previous day.

The zoo did not say when staff think the bloom will open.

The Chicago Botanic Garden, which has been cultivating corpse flowers since 2003 as part of “a worldwide conservation effort to preserve the species,” says the blooms typically are 6 to 8 feet tall and about 3 feet wide.

“The odor, color, and temperature, which can rise to 98 degrees, of the flower are meant to attract pollinators that are attracted to dead animals,” Stenger said in the release. “Since the Discovery Forest greenhouse isn’t crawling with dung beetles and flesh flies, we are trying to get our hands on some pollen so we can help Morticia pollinate!”

When it isn’t blooming or dormant, the plant can also produce a leaf structure that grows up to 15 feet tall.

Morticia is on display in the zoo’s Discovery Forest, which is near the elephant and giraffe exhibits.

Research scientist Shannon Still, right, and horticulturalist Tim Pollack removed the spathe from Spike, a rare corpse flower, at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Ill., in 2015. The highly anticipated bloom never happened, but visitors didn’t hold it against Spike. TNS

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