Massive crowds flocked to the Chicago Botanical Garden on Tuesday evening to see a corpse flower in bloom. The corpse flower surprisingly began blooming late Monday. It was an opportunity for plant lovers to take selfies with the beautiful but smelly flower that measured 55 inches tall. Dubbed Alice, it is one of the eight corpse flowers at the Chicago Botanical Garden.
Spike failed to bloom last month
Alice is a sibling of Spike, another flower that failed to bloom as expected last month. The garden authorities have moved Spike to a different greenhouse where she will be nurtured to bloom in 3-5 years. The Chicago Botanical Garden said on its website that corpse flowers are notoriously unpredictable, so they wanted to be sure that Alice would bloom before officially announcing it.
The corpse flowers, whose botanical name is Amorphophallus titanum, stink like rotten flesh when blooming. However, some evening visitors to the garden were relieved that much of its smell had dissipated over the day. One of the visitors told Reuters that Alice lived up to her reputation of corpse flower early in the Wednesday morning, giving off a nasty smell.
Why the corpse flower smells so bad
The horrendous stink attracts pollinators that help it reproduce. Carrion beetles and flies that usually feed on dead animals are attracted by the corpse flower’s notoriously bad smell. These insects are coated with pollen when they move into the plant’s thick interior axis. Then these insects cross-pollinate other corpse flowers. On Tuesday morning, Alice stood 55 inches tall with a girth of 35 inches. Soon she will start shrinking in size.
Corpse flowers are native to Indonesia. They bloom only once every ten years. The Chicago Botanical Garden said some of Alice’s pollen will be distributed to other gardens that have the corpse flower plants. Wondering why it smells so stinky? Because of a combination of indole, trimethylamine, benzyl alcohol, isovaleric acid, dimethyl disulfide, and dimethyl trisulfide.