“The waiting game begins…” is how Olbrich Botanical Gardens describes the impending bloom of one of its most popular plants, the corpse flower. Known officially as the titan arum, these plants are indigenous to the rainforests of Sumatra. Their flowers can grow up to twelve feet tall in the wild and produce a smell similar to rotting flesh to attract pollinators like flies and carrion beetles.
The coming bloom of a corpse flower – one of four at Olbrich – is special since these plants only produce flowers and bloom once every eight to ten years. The flowers will open for about a day before they wilt and recede.
This particular plant was donated to Olbrich in 2006. And spokesperson Katy Nodoff tells WORT that this plant last bloomed in 2010, meaning its now overdue for a bloom.
“It will either send up a leaf or a flower… More often than not, it sends up a leaf. It needs to send up a leaf every year to gather enough energy to produce a bloom that is this large,” says Nodoff.
The corpse flower has yet to open, but it stands tall and about ready to release its odors in the coming days. As anticipation of its bloom, reporter Cameron Costanzo went down to Olbrich Garden and spoke to some of the visitors about the plant.
Some described it as an oversized cucumber, someone sticking their tongue out, or something a sculptor might create. One visitor noted its phallic proportions.
Some were eager to detect the famous scent, while others had no interest. But because it hasn’t opened, there’s not a ton to smell right now.
Colton Blackburn, a curator, is excited but recognizes the fleeting spectacle that the flower provides.
“It’s fleeting, so it’s a big crowd-pleaser. But ultimately, it’s just a big pot of dirt for most of the time that we just keep in the greenhouses,” he says.
When the corpse flower finally blooms, smell it yourself: the Bolz Conservatory is open 10am-4pm daily with a $6 admission. It is free to all on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. – noon. Facemasks are no longer required indoors.