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With nose clenched, scientists study Connecticut’s blooming corpse flower — a photo essay

Michael P. Rouleau/University Relations
Eastern Connecticut State University
A livestream captures the moment the rancid corpse flower blooms at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Connecticut had one of the world’s grossest smelling plants in bloom in June.

The titan arum, known as the corpse flower, can take up to 10 years to bloom and for just for one or two days.

Dr Connolly holds the recently bloomed Corpse Plant.jpg
Brian Scott-Smith
Bryan Connolly, assistant professor of biology at Eastern Connecticut State University, holds the bloomed corpse flower plant.

“They smell like a dead body,” said Bryan Connolly, assistant professor of biology at Eastern Connecticut State University, where they have two genetic specimens of the plant. “They have chemicals that mimic the scent of sweaty feet and garlic and dead fish, and this is so they can attract pollinators from far away. They’re native to the island of Sumatra, which is part of Indonesia.”

The Corpse Flower is considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Efforts are underway to avoid inbreeding to help create long-term conservation.

Connecticut Eastern State University obtained their two plants as seeds back in 1999 and over time they have cloned and produced more seedlings. The first one to bloom was back in 2008.

Connolly said the plants have acquired cult status worldwide.

“They’re sort of developed this following in the United States and at other botanical gardens in Europe and things like that,” he said. “And they’ve become this phenomenon and every time one blooms, people love to put it up on social media and see it.”

The university intends to join the global conservation effort by offering pollen from its two plants to other scientific and botanical gardens around the country.

Dr Connolly disects and inspects the Corpse Plant.jpg
Brian Scott-Smith
Biologist Bryan Connolly dissects and studies the corpse flower at Eastern Connecticut State University.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.