Anyone who missed the last time an Amorphophallus titanum bloomed at The New York Botanical Garden will now have an opportunity to witness this rare spectacle. A new specimen of the horticultural marvel—one of the largest flowers in the world—is on display in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and about to bloom. Known as the corpse flower, it releases an infamous odor, which some have described as similar to the smell of rotting meat, during its brief 24-to-36-hour peak bloom.
Visitors can watch the corpse flower online via the Garden’s live video feed ator see and smell this rare plant first-hand during its limited time in the spotlight at NYBG by purchasing an All-Garden Pass, available at .
Its unpredictable blooming cycle and notorious stench are part of the plant’s allure. Native to Sumatra in Indonesia, the corpse flower bloomed in the Western Hemisphere for the first time on June 8, 1937, here at The New York Botanical Garden. A second specimen bloomed at NYBG on July 2, 1939. Bronx Borough President James J. Lyons commemorated the event by designating the Amorphophallus titanum as the official flower of the Bronx (replaced by the daylily in 2000.) Almost 80 years later, a new specimen bloomed at NYBG on Thursdsay, July 28, 2016, creating a sensation as hundreds of thousands of people experienced, in person or online, some portion of the plant’s life cycle. Now, the bud of a new specimen is indicating that it is ready to bloom, giving visitors a chance to experience it again or for the first time.
The bloom cycle occurs extremely quickly. On June 1, 2018, NYBG horticulturists noticed what looked like the flower bud starting to form. The corpse flower was moved on Thursday, June 21, the first day of summer, from NYBG’s behind-the-scenes Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where it is now on display in the Palms of the World Gallery, allowing visitors to experience the development of this spectacular curiosity—from bud to flower—with their own senses.
Its strong, distinctive odor, which attracts pollinators that feed on dead animals, will be at its most pungent during its peak blooming. The final opening of the bloom is unpredictable, but is expected to occur in the next week or two. Amorphophallus titanum is the largest unbranched inflorescence (a cluster of flowers on a spike) in the plant kingdom, growing 12 feet tall in its natural habitat and about six to eight feet tall in cultivation. Although the enormous plant in bloom resembles one giant flower, it actually comprises a fleshy central spike called a spadix that holds two rings of male and female flowers, wrapped by the frilly spathe, a modified leaf that resembles a petal.
In the first several days of the bloom cycle, the bud grows about four to six inches per day. Then growth slows significantly. The two bracts at the base of the spathe shrivel and fall off. Next, the spathe, which was once tightly wound around the spadix, loosens and begins to open, revealing the deep-red color inside. During bloom, the spadix self-heats to approximately human body temperature, which helps disseminate odor particles. The spathe unfurls during the course of about 36 hours (full bloom) before withering and dying back. Generally the life cycle of the bloom is only one or two days.
A young corpse flower takes about seven to 10 years to store enough energy to begin its bloom cycle. This specimen has been carefully nurtured for years by NYBG horticulturists in the Nolen Greenhouses. After the current cycle is complete, it will be several more years before this plant is ready to bloom again.