For the first time in seven years, the University of Minnesota’s “corpse flower” — known, for better or worse, for its off-putting aroma — is about to make its malodorous presence known at the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory.
The notoriously noxious Amorphophallus titanum, native to the equatorial rain forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, reaches up to 6 feet in height and emits a scent akin to rotting meat.
“Botanical gardens around the world build entire festivals around this single plant,” said Lisa Aston Philander, the conservatory’s curator. “Tens of thousands of visitors show up just to inhale this awful ‘carrion’ smell.”
If you dare, the conservatory on the U’s St. Paul campus opened for public viewing and sniffing of the corpse flower beginning Monday. Visit cbs.umn.edu/conservatory/corpse-flower for details.
In its native habitat, the corpse flower uses its strong odor to cut through the many scents competing for the pollinating attention of the sweat bee. The bees can smell the plant from miles away. The plant produces a single leaf, resembling a small palm tree, that lasts up to a year. When the underground corm has stored enough energy, the corpse flower emerges.
Typically, the Amorphophallus titanum — which translates to “misshapen giant penis” — blooms for only a few days.
Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., raised a stink about its corpse flower blooming in late 2013. A corpse flower also stunk things up in 2008 at Como Park’s Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul.