Nature stinks! Rare corpse flower prepares to unleash its stench at Bloedel Conservatory


If you’re visiting Vancouver’s Bloedel Conservatory in the next few days, you’ll be forgiven for holding your nose. 

One of nature’s strangest displays is about to take place at the indoor tropical garden in Queen Elizabeth Park, as its exotic corpse flower is getting ready to bloom — when it releases a smell that many have likened to a rotting corpse or warm garbage.

The Titan arum, or corpse flower, is a rare tropical plant that usually requires seven to 10 years of growth before blooming for the first time, but the conservatory says its six-year-old plant has begun blooming unexpectedly.  

“This has caught us by surprise. This is the bloom that wasn’t supposed to occur,” said Bruce MacDonald, superintendent of the Bloedel Conservatory. 

“We’re getting very excited. I feel like an expectant father.”

Stink attracts flies, beetles

The corpse flower is not only known for being the largest flower on earth, but also draws crowds for its unpredictable bloom and putrid smell.

“The petals are just kind of starting to unfurl now. That’s when it opens up and it begins to smell,” MacDonald said.

He says the flower’s smell is meant to attract carrion beetles, flesh flies and other insects that are drawn to rotting meat, so they can pollinate the flower.

“I think when it’s at full peak of bloom that when you step in the front doors of Bloedel you are going to be hit with the smell of something not so nice,” said MacDonald.

Watch a time-lapse video of the corpse flower’s bloom growing:

The Vancouver Park Board says horticulturalists noticed that a 28-centimetre flower bud had formed on June 21, and by July 6 it was more than a metre-and-a-half tall. 

Native to the equatorial rainforests on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, the plant was acquired from a North Carolina nursery in 2016.

The plant can grow up to almost four metres tall, and its “corm,” or underground plant stem, can weigh up to 90 kilograms.

After the first bloom, corpse flowers may not bloom for another two or three years, and can even take another 10 years. 

According to the park board this will be the first time the flower has bloomed publicly in B.C. 

The Bloedel Conservatory is planning to extend its operating hours for the fleeting spectacle, which will last between 24 and 48 hours. 

With files from On the Coast



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