It happens around once every 10 years, so of course Barnard College’s new Amorphophallus titanum, known as the corpse plant, decided to bust open its first pungent bloom during the unending fever dream that is 2020. These infamous plants are a wonder to observe, but somewhat of an assault on the olfactory organs. Named for the putrid smell they emit which, you guessed it, has been compared to rotting corpses, the corpse plant flower is a less than delightful wonder to witness in person, which is why Barnard College's Arthur Ross Greenhouse in New York has kindly taken one for the team in setting up a live stream feed so you can watch the events unfold from the comfort of your home fragrances.
Native to Sumatra, the putrid-smelling plant arrived at the Arthur Ross Greenhouse seven years ago as a gift from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. At the time, it was just a wee bonny tuberous bulb that weighed around 0.5 kilograms (1 pound). Greenhouse horticulturist Nicholas Gershberg tended to the corpse plant that now weighs in at over 18 kilograms (40 pounds). When it was ready to bloom, this monstrous plant really put the “phallus” in Amorphophallus as it erected a 5-foot (1.5-meter) long, leaf-wrapped cylindrical stalk, which after two-months was stood, shall we say, to attention. But enough horticultural sexy talk, what did the super serious botanists have to say about witnessing this spectacle?
“It dramatically opened up like a pleated cloak, or a collar of a fancy blouse," greenhouse director Hilary Callahan told Live Science, a professor of biological sciences at Barnard. "We joked that it looks like a costume Billy Porter would wear on the red carpet." (The corpse plant wishes it was that fabulous).
Due to lockdown the greenhouse still isn’t able to permit visitors, which is probably for the best as this plant is one we expect you would be glad to socially distance from, but you can still enjoy the spectacle via their webcam. The stream first launched on May 27 as the corpse plant began to bloom revealing its fabulous outfit. True to form, when the petals finally unfurled on May 31 it filled the room with a funky stench that Callahan described as “very complex.”
“It’s like mature cheese,” she said. “Or the feet of someone you really like.”
[H/T: Live Science]