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Stinky the Corpse Flower Will Again Come to Life

Experts are predicting that the colloquially known corpse plant will perform a rare bloom at the Denver Botanic Gardens as soon as this weekend.

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The Denver Botanic Garden’s most noxious resident is at it again. In an exciting (albeit fetid) ­­­development, Stinky the corpse flower is expected to bloom in the very near future.

The bloom, which only lasts for a 24- to 48-hour period, is a special event for its infrequency and unique smell, which is said to be reminiscent of decomposing flesh. And it could happen as soon as this weekend, according to expert horticulturists. The pungent smell of the corpse flower, whose proper name is Amorphophallus titanum, is meant to attract flies and carrion beetles, who, in the plant’s native Sumatran rainforest, would help pollinate the plant.

Stinky’s bloom is exciting for not just fans of the macabre, but also the Gardens’ horticulturists. Corpse flowers have a unique life cycle: they first bloom at about seven to 15 years old, and then bloom once every three to five years. This year’s bloom will mark three years since Stinky’s first flowering in August, 2015, which occurred when the plant was around 15 years old.

In years when it doesn’t bloom, the plant sprouts a giant leaf and leaflets (that take on the appearance of a small tree), in order to gather energy. Another corpse flower Little Stinky, who is also housed in Denver Botanic Gardens and bloomed for the first time in 2016, is in this life cycle phase. When the plant has stored enough energy, a bud will start to grow instead of a leaf—alerting horticulturists to an impending bloom.

corpse flower
The yet-to-bloom corpse flower. Courtesy of the Denver Botanic Gardens

This year is especially exciting, says Botanic Gardens horticulturist Nick Giaquinto, because together, (big) Stinky and Little Stinky exhibit two stages of the corpse flower life cycle at one time.

Though there is always a chance the bloom will fail, horticulturists, who have been hard at work measuring and caring for Stinky and his little brother, are fairly confident there will be a successful bloom. Stinky has been well cared-for with appropriate water and sun, and is currently growing at a breakneck pace of two to three inches per day.

Botanic Gardens staff will be able to tell once Stinky has begun to bloom, which usually occurs in the evening. They will send a bloom alert far and wide—including to Gardens newsletter recipients—and will invite members to arrive at 8 a.m. the next day, an hour before the Gardens open to the general public. Currently, horticulturists predict Stinky will bloom on August 31 or September 1.

Throughout the day Coloradan’s are invited to see the giant bloom and take in the shocking smell. Even those who can’t make it, or aren’t lured by foul odors, can watch via live stream and see updates on the Gardens’ website and social media accounts.

Fans of oddity, or those with less sensitive noses, should arrive as early as possible. The bloom will be the largest and the smell the strongest in the early morning, says Giaquinto.

“It’s a novelty,” says Giaquinto, when asked about the surprising draw of a gag-worthy bloom. “The flower itself looks otherworldly. You wouldn’t be able to see it unless you were in Sumatra or a botanic garden.”

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