The corpse flower stinks to high heaven. And that’s why thousands of visitors will likely head to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter to take a deep whiff on June 3 and 4.
The 7-foot-tall tropical plant nicknamed “Perry” looks like a specimen from a sci-fi movie but it grows naturally in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. Its repulsive odor has been described by past visitors as everything from “a dirty diaper” to a “boys’ hockey locker room.”
Gustavus chemistry Prof. Brian O’Brien received Perry as a seed in 1993 from a San Francisco doctor. After years of meticulous cultivation, Perry produced a maroon and dark-purple flower in 2007, attracting more than 7,000 visitors who came to see and smell the rare plant that emits a stench after it blooms, to attract pollinators.
The plant’s Latin name is Amorphophallus titanum (“misshapen giant penis”), and unfurled flowers are a rare occurrence, with only about 122 plants known to bloom worldwide.
Perry must be content in the Gustavus greenhouse because it has consistently flowered every three years since 2007. But the stinky odor is short-lived — the flower starts closing after two days.
You can catch a whiff of Perry between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. June 3, and between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. June 4 — inside the third-floor greenhouse of Gustavus’ Nobel Hall of Science.
Can’t make it to St. Peter? Watch the live streaming webcam at gustavus.edu/perry.
O’Brien will be at the greenhouse part of the time during visiting hours to answer questions, many posed by kids who are fascinated by Perry’s size, shape and smell.