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Corpse Flower Blooms And NYBG Visitors Say 'Blech!’

Rich Pedroncelli

The corpse flower takes up to ten years to bloom – and then blooms for only one or two days. And when it does, it smells terrible. A corpse flower bloomed this weekend at the New York Botanical Garden.

An ugly, pulpy yellow stalk juts out of pink and green leaves. A line of onlookers wait for their chance to get a whiff.

Jessica Godburn came from Connecticut with her son Jonah to see the corpse flower.

“It’s not quite as smelly as I had expected, but it is still a spectacle.”

For Jonah, it’s all about the odor.

“I wanted to smell it.” “What’s it smell like?” “Like throw-up.”

Jessica found out the flower was blooming through a live-streamed webcam.

“It does create a bit of a sensation. People follow it on social media and the webcam trying to get here at the peak moment to not only enjoy the quality of the bloom but that terrible fragrance,” says garden curator Marc Hachadourian.

The New York Botanical Garden got a batch of corpse flower seedlings in 2007. This is the third to bloom in the last three years. Hachadourian says it’s hard to predict when the next might come.

“Like all children, every one’s a little different, has a different personality so to speak.”

But what about that smell? Hachadourian says the corpse flower does that on purpose.

“It actually, chemically, has a fragrance that’s identical to things in rotting fish, feces, limburger cheese.”

The smell attracts beetles and flies, which pollinate the flower. Attracting curious onlookers? That’s just a convenient side benefit.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.