Giant Corpse Flower Blooms in Cornell's Greenhouse

By Veronique Greenwood | March 21, 2012 11:38 am


On Sunday, Cornell University’s corpse flower, a gigantic Sumatran plant that reeks of death, bloomed. It was one of only 140 such plants to bloom in cultivation in recorded history.

The plant’s long central stalk, called a spadix, had been growing by a few inches a day since the beginning of March in preparation for the bloom, finally reaching more than 60 inches in height when the fleshy, dark red leaf around its base eventually unfurled on the 18th.

corpse0The corpse flower before blooming.

corpseThe corpse flower after blooming, with admirers.



To reduce the stench when the flower finally opened, graduate students hooked little pumps up to the plant, which sucked out the scent compounds as they were forming. In the wild, its rotting-meat small attracts flies that pollinate it, but in the greenhouse, fertilization is taken care of by scientists, who must tap the female blooms at the base of the spadix with pollen saved from another blooming corpse flower.


This corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum, shares that evocative moniker with the Rafflesia genus of plants, which also have giant blooms, and also smell like corpses, but are not closely related.

Images courtesy of Robert Barker / Cornell, Joe Schwartz / Cornell, Chris Kitchen Photography

  • http://facebook MYRNA HOYT

    it is mention “rotting meat”.,please explain..I didn’t understand. this plant is amazing and I will be googling other corpse plants I’m very interested in plants, but mine are just out-side, and gouse plants. thank you for sharing

  • Melissa Richards

    They are saying it smells like rotting meat. The flower is called a corpse flower because it SMELLS like a decaying corpse. It is very pretty, but smells awful. That’s why they are removing the stench with special equipment in the greenhouse. In the wild, that smell would attract flies to pollinate the flower – since flies would normally be all over rotting meat, that’s what the flower smells like. I don’t think corpse flowers are recommended for the garden, unless you want that smell around your house.

  • Luke

    This is perfect for my ex-girlfriend.

  • Odin

    When I was young, on some weeks, I spend entire afternoons hunting down each of these annoying flowers through the forest and destroying them. You’re gonna hate that smell when it’s everywhere around you. And you’re growing it?

  • Mutinus

    Odin, did you grow up in the rainforests of Sumatra? If not, you’re probably thinking of something else. If you did, that’s still bad. They’re awesome. I want one.

  • Dave

    Odin, I hope you are kidding.

  • Dave Horne

    Luke’s comment made me laugh. Thank you!

  • Jim

    Gee, thanks so much for the detailed explaination. As I was unable to read the text and understand the process for myself. In fact I had someone read it to me and type this response.



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