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Florist Bucket List; The Corpse Flower

When you think of a flower blossoming and coming into full bloom, you conjour up images of soft layers of petals and a sweet fragrances that dance through the air.

But the so called ‘corpse flower’ is quite a different specimen of flower. The Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), is a rare bloom that only flowers approximately every 3-5 years with a pungent odour likened to the smell of rotting flesh. Delightful.

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Image; Plants of the World Online

Amorphophallus titanum, a plant native to the rainforests of Sumatra, is a member of the Arum family. It is listed on the IUCN Red list of Threatened plants, noted as being ‘Vulnerable’. The plant produces the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, with the flowers measuring up to 3 metres high and 3 metres in circumference! The bloom appears green, however has a richly coloured flesh inside, with ribbed sides and a frilly edge.


Right now, there are a few of these blooms expected to open at some prominent gardens around the world. In the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center, Iowa, an approximately 4 foot flower is about to bloom. This bloom is expected to open on or around July 22. For those who are unable to make the trip or perhaps are curious to see it open, but not endure the accompanying odour, the Botanical Centre has opened up a live feed that you can check out here.

The Paignton Zoo, Devon, UK, has just endured (errr….enjoyed) one of two resident Titan Arum plants opening. The second plant is expected to bloom just a few weeks behind. When the second plant was recently repotted, it weighed in at a whopping 56kgs, leaving the first plant to be dubbed ‘Tiny Tim’ in comparison to this giant at the Zoological and Botanical Garden.

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Image; The Mirror, The Paighton Zoo Titan Arum photographed with a staff member.

‘Carrion’ is defined as; ‘the decaying flesh of dead animals’. So Carrion flowers are flowers that emit an odor that smells like rotting flesh. The flowers ‘scent’ wafts through the air (particularly at night) attracting flies and other pollinators.

There are several Carrion flowers, the Titan Arum lily has a few smelly mates within this category, but the blooms are not necessarily related species. The Rock Island Quad City Botanical Centre has a Voodoo lily in residence which also omits a foul scent, and this blooms in late January.


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Image; Another Carrion Flower, ‘Voodoo Lily’ from Smart Seeds Store

What do they say ….”Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.” I’m not sure that any of these Carrion flowers are the most attractive blooms on offer, but when something blooms so spectacularly (size- wise), so infrequently (every 3-5 years) and so fleetingly (living only 24 hours) is certainly still gets on my bucket list.

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Image; Spent flower, Australian Geographic

Have you ever seen a Titan Arum?

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