This Most Delicate Summer Flower Arrangement Has a Most Terrible Odour… Attracting Certain Unconventional Flower Lovers

amorphophallus-titanum

Is that the overwhelmingly ripe scent of weeks’ old rubbish you smell? It would admittedly have to be quite powerful a stench to carry all the way across the Atlantic…because in July, visitors to the New York Botanical Gardens were scrunching up their noses, too, and yet most remained undeterred as they tried to catch sight (but not too heady of a whiff) of the Amorphophallus titanum, or what is otherwise known as the “corpse flower.”

Scent and sight of the fully unfurled corpse flower together are a rare occurrence, indeed, as the flowering plant takes about ten years to grow and reach the size at which it is ready to blossom in all its stinking glory.

One olfactory observer to the Botanical Gardens noted that the pretty corpse plant smelled remarkably similar to where he lives, out in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He repeated his point several times, that the plant–which is native to the rain forests of Sumatra and Indonesia–smells exactly like the streets and garbage of Brooklyn.

In Indonesian, the flower is called bunga bangkai, with bunga translating to mean flower, and bangkai turning out in English to be corpse, a cadaver, or sometimes carrion.

But is it all so disgusting as it seems? Or is it a divine-like beauty? Another demonstration of Darwin’s natural selection and Mother Nature’s ongoing, miraculous ability to adapt to just about anything, to change and survive given a large enough time frame?

After the Amorphophallus titanum has had its tenth birthday and opens up to the world, it release its horrendous perfume, a fragrance that only your mother could love (though perhaps not all that convincingly, and certainly without much conviction if you asked for her honest opinion).

However, there is one group of flower lovers who are unremitting in their show of adoration for the corpse flower. You could say they have created quite the buzz around it.

That would be because these anthophilous creatures are none other than the buzzing flies and beetles drawn in by the smells pumped out in abundance from the corpse flower–like meat that has gone off, or of rotting fish, and plenty other most terrible odours we would rather not name nor dwell upon.

The blossom’s noxious scent acts as the perfect lure for insects that love the smell of hot garbage. The attractive flowers are then pollinated by the flies and beetles once they have landed on the delicately perfumed petals…and off they go, repeating the process.

There are some people, surely, who cannot stand the smell at all, even though they will admit to the great beauty of the corpse flower. Children at the Botanical Gardens seemed to be especially forgiving of the flower’s “sick smell” or the fact that it’s “like dog poo.”
Stinky it may be, this precious bloom reminds us all that it should be appreciated, as it is particularly short-lived: the one blossoming portion of the plan lasts for only 24 to 36 hours. And then it’s gone, smell and all.

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