That Strange and Interesting Plant

A rare corpse flower bloomed at the United States Botanic Garden this week. During a ten or twelve hour window, it emits a smell similar to rotting flesh in order to attract insects that will pollinate the flower.

In 1999, my family and I tried unsuccessfully to see the corpse flower at the Huntington Library near Pasadena. There was a long line of cars waiting to enter the property. The guards told us that they were cutting off the line because all the people wouldn’t get in before closing time.

My son travels to D.C. regularly for work. He emailed me on July 16:

Hey Dad, here’s something that I thought would interest you. The Amorphophallus Titanum (named for its interesting shape), also known as the “Rotting Corpse” flower (named for its strong stench) is about to bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden in D.C. It blooms very infrequently and only lasts for about a day or two. If it blooms either today or tomorrow, I hope to make it over there after work. I’ll try and get some good pictures if I do go. It was just odd enough that it made me think of you.

On July 17, Frank Jr. went to see the flower, which had not yet bloomed. He was in DC again on July 24, which was after the peak bloom but before the corpse flower completely collapsed. He offered to share his pictures with me on Dropbox. I was looking for anything labeled “corpse flower” when I noticed he had put the photos in a folder named “Titan Arum,” which is what the scientists call the plant.

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