The corpse flower is huge, pretty and only blooms for a short while. As the name suggests, it also smells disgusting.
Its real name is amorphophallus titanum, which roughly translates to “giant misshapen penis.” Typically, the large flower will grow for about a decade before blooming for about a 48-hour period.
During that time, the flower famously emits a scent that many liken to a dead body. While the plants in parks and botanic gardens generally just attract spectators during bloom, in the wild the smell is meant to attract beetles and other pollinators, according to Devin Dotson, spokesman for the U.S. Botanic Garden in D.C.
The latest bloom in D.C. happened at about 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dotson said, and the plant went through many “smell cycles” between then and the afternoon.
“The smell comes out during the first eight to 10 hours,” Dotson said. “It really changes. At one point it was like a dead, rotting animal for a little while, then we got some really strong cabbage, sort of brussel sprout notes for a while. Most recently, it’s been like rotting trash.”
There have been multiple corpse flower blooms in the U.S. recently, including in New York City, Bloomington, Indiana, Sarasota, Florida and St. Louis.
Dotson said they were developing either vials or scratch-sniff-stickers to keep at the U.S. Botanic Garden for visitors who come by when they didn’t have a flower in bloom. Until then, those who can’t see the flower in person can read these descriptions from visitors to the flower on Tuesday (most common descriptions included garbage and rotten eggs).
“It smells like decaying meat. It doesn’t smell as bad as an actual decomposed corpse at the beginning.” -Kelly Boyd, 39, an embalmer for 20 years
“It smells sort of like diapers.” -Tom Mann, 68
“It smells like when you left the trash out for a few days in your trash can, and you open the lid and it just hits you in the face.” -Noelle Tower, 46
“I think it kind of smells like tuna, tuna that’s been sitting out.” -Lily Tower, 17
“It smells like a wet, poop-filled diaper.” -Amanda, 30
“Like when something has been sitting in your fridge too long, like milk or rotten fish you needed to throw away a long time ago.” -Melissa, 32
“It’s what I imagine rotting flesh or old blood would smell like.” -Shereen Bhan, 37
“I’m getting rotting fish.” -Owen Matthews, 42
“In France we have this cheese, maroilles ... It’s not a cheese that many French people like, and it smells like this flower.” -Tanguy Michelet, 19
“It smells like broccoli in my garbage can.” -Marlene Brasco, 11
Elizabeth Koh contributed to this report.