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The Beautiful 'Corpse' Flower

The Titan Arum at the U.S. Botanic Garden in full bloom.
Ed McNulty, NPR News /
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The Titan Arum at the U.S. Botanic Garden in full bloom.
The U.S. Botantic Garden's Titan Arum is 56 inches tall.
Ed McNulty, NPR News /
/
The U.S. Botantic Garden's Titan Arum is 56 inches tall.

Some plants smell as beautiful as they look. This one definitely doesn't. The Titan Arum, or amorphophallus titanum, looks splendid, with bright colors towering up to 12 feet tall, but smells as if it were a rotting carcass. NPR's Linda Wertheimer braved the stench to visit the U.S. Botanic Garden's almost five foot tall Titan Arum, which bloomed from July 15 to July 23.

This particular 'corpse flower' -- as its family is sometimes called -- comes from Sumatra, where it uses its smell to attract carrion-eating insects. These insects move across the plant to pollinate it. Afterwards, the bright colors attract birds, which eat the seeds and transport them to new sites.

Source: Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.