Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. In this case, the Corpse Flower is an accurate description of the plant that is blooming at the Frederick Meijer Gardens.
The plant that typically blooms once every ten years, has now been 18 years in the making in Michigan after transplant from its native home in Indonesia. The bloom only lasts a short time, releasing a pungent odor that befits its’ name.
Steve Lawarre, Director of Horticulture at the Gardens says the plant arrived as a small seeding that produces a single leaf that looks like a small palm tree. The leaf grows but needs a lot of energy to bloom. “Because it doesn’t have any leaves while its blooming. So all of the energy that’s needed for that huge bloom that’s in there, is coming from the corm. So the corm has to get big enough in order to support that flower.”
The odor comes as a natural process of reproduction for the plant. Lawarre says plants use color and smell to attract pollinators such as insects, birds and other animals to spread pollen.
“In the same way, this flower is basically a billboard for its pollinators. It’s advertising itself to call in flies, carrion beetles, those types of things that would be its pollinators.”
And while the smell is like that of rotting meat, Lawarre says it’s part of the experience.
“I think that you have to smell it. As part of the experience. You know no one says ‘I want to smell something dead today.’ But it truly is part of the experience. I’ve been calling it ‘a beautiful stink’ because the flower is something to behold, in and of itself, but you really have to smell it to get the full experience.”
Today is expected to be the best time to get the ‘full experience’ and the bloom should last for several more days.
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The Gardens will also set up pictures to help you learn more. Frederick Meijer Garden.