Foul-Smelling Plant in Bloom

A rare plant has been making a stink at the Honolulu Botanical Garden, literally. The plant – also known as the “Corpse Flower” – lives up to its name because the more it starts to bloom, the stinkier it gets…as in, rotting flesh, dead horse stink. Last year, the plant was in bloom on the Big Island, but this is the first time for Oahu.

(Left) A pre-bloom amorphophallus titanium, or “Corpse Flower.” (Right) Taken today as it starts to bloom. It should continue to fully mature into tomorrow (Thursday).

The stench won’t stop hundreds of curious visitors from getting a whiff of what experts nicknamed “Big Stink,” when it fully blooms tomorrow. That’s because it only happens every three to five years, and although the botanical garden got the plant almost 10 years ago, this is the first time it’ll bloom. It’s also believed to be the only one on Oahu. Thousands showed up to see it each day when it was in bloom on the Big Island.

Our blogger Katherine Finch happened to be checking out the plant today. She said it smells like “rotten matter or meat with a sweetish overtone, like it really wants to be a flower.” Way to find the good in this deadly-smelling plant, Katherine! I think I’ll just take your word for it on this one.

The plant is an endangered species native to Sumatra, Indonesia and emits the horrific odor to attract the carrion beetles that pollinate the flower. If you’re wondering why on Earth these beetles would enjoy such a stench; it’s because they’re the ones that hurry over to dead animals so that they can lay their eggs in the rotting flesh.

Katherine taking one for the team! She had the privilege of getting up close and personal with the putrid stench!

Officials say the plant is already starting to show its bright purple petals and excrete a pungent perfume. But once it finally is in bloom, it may only remain that way for a few days. Whatever you do, just don’t forget to bring your nose plugs!

HONOLULU FOSTER BOTANICAL GARDEN • 50 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96817 • Opens daily 9am-4pm, closed Christmas Day and New Years Day • 808-522-7066 • Free parking; near bus route

Photo Credit: City & County of Honolulu (first, left); Katherine Finch

Posted by: Bruce Fisher