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World’s largest, worst-smelling tropical flower blooms

| 01 May 2012 | 01:53

On March 18, the largest tropical flower on earth bloomed at Cornell University for the first time since it was planted ten years ago.

The seeds of the rare Titan Arum plant, also known as the “corpse plant,” came to Cornell in 2002. They had been extracted from a flowering plant at the University of Wisconsin. The plant has been under the care of Carol Bader, the greenhouse manager, since then.

The “corpse plant” gets its nickname from the odor that it emits when it is in bloom, which is said to smell like a rotting corpse. The smell is produced when the flowers are ready for pollination. The spadix (the tall part in the middle of the flower), emits the scent to attract carrion flies, which are also attracted to rotting meat.

Cornell’s plant reportedly smelled like rotten cabbage upon blooming, but had faded to a barely noticeable dead fish smell less than 24 hours later. Visitors said that they were expecting a stronger smell.

Gwynne Lim, a graduate student in the Department of Plant Biology at Cornell, was excited to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It’s just really elegant, beautiful, charismatic - it’s really special to see.”