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The Smell of the Corpse Flower

Updated on March 15, 2015
The Corpse Flower
The Corpse Flower | Source

Raising the Biggest Stink in the Flower World

The Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum, is the stinkiest flower in the world and what does it smell like? You guessed, a rotting corpse.

More commonly called titan arum which, you must admit, sounds a lot better, it can grow up as high as three metres, that's ten feet, and it only flowers once in about every seven years. Perhaps that's just as well.

It's a striking, strident plant, related to the Calla lily, but definitely not my choice for a display in the average suburban garden. I'd make a hefty bet that it wouldn't be your choice either.

A Massive Smelly Bloom

What a stink
What a stink | Source

The Corpse Flower does its job beautifully

We delight in flowers. We admire their graceful shapes, their entrancing variety of colours and, most of all, we enjoy their enchanting fragrance. But flowers couldn't care less what we thought of them. Everything about a flower, especially the scent, is fine-tuned over millennia to attract pollinators.

The corpse flower does its job beautifully, attracting those flies and beetles which lay their eggs in dead things. Once the plant has lured these decaying-flesh lovers, it smothers them with seeds so that the titan arum genes are spread far and wide.

It doesn't need us at all, and the stench of the corpse flower will leave us gagging and gasping for breath.

Corpse Flower in Canada

Corpse Flower in Canada
Corpse Flower in Canada | Source
Corpse Flower in Sumatra
Corpse Flower in Sumatra | Source

The Rare Corpse Flower

If you want to see this flower in the wild, you'll have to travel to Sumatra.

However it's now found in many places since it was first cultivated in the Kew Royal Botannical Gardens in 1889.

It's still a rare event though, there's never been more than six cultivated Corpse flowers in bloom, anywhere in the world, in a single year.

Want to grow one yourself? Don't be discouraged. The advanced gardener can often manage to produce a Corpse flower with a great deal of work (and money).

The Corpse Flower was once the official flower of the Bronx

Corpse Flower in Melbourne

Corpse Flower in Melbourne
Corpse Flower in Melbourne | Source

Disappointed you can't cultivate a Corpse Flower? Get a Venus Flytrap instead

Put this little terror on your windowsill. On your porch. On your fence. Anywhere you want! Entertain your neighbours and mesmerise passers-by

Detailed, yet simple instructions for growing a Venus Flytrap and other carnivorous plants

Quick Corpse Flower Poll

Would you like to have a Corpse flower in your garden?

See results

© 2013 Susanna Duffy

Bloom a little in my Guestbook

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    • CrisSp profile image


      3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      This is really interesting. I never knew and the fact that I've been to the Kew Gardens in Toronto. How did I miss it? Maybe, I was too busy strolling the beach instead of actually exploring the gardens. I'm curious to actually see this corpse and smell it.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      How dramatic! I want my own titan arum

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Imagine this in your front garden!

    • VladimirCat profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      Purple is a powerful colour for a plant - any plant. Not sure about the smell

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Sometimes it makes sense to be smelly

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      LOL, we saw one of these blooming in the Washington DC arboretum last month. I love the photos you have here, we got there just after the stink had faded quite a bit.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This is the first time that I have ever in my whole life heard of the Corpse Flower. Those pictures are amazing. I would like to see one but at a distance, of course.

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 

      5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      It is a shame that something that looks so beautiful could smell so bad...


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