Corpse flower nears short, stinky bloom

- Something stinky is about to bloom at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

"It is just a bizarre plant. We love it. Our public loves it," said Mike McLaughlin.

Mike McLaughlin is the director of horticulture at Selby Botanical Gardens and is talking about the corpse flower, or the Amorphophallus titanum.

It's one of the rarest blooms on Earth and it's only seen every 3 to 7 years. Once the flower blooms, it puts out a smell that's like no other.

McLaughlin describes it as rotting fish and sweaty socks.

"The corpse flower is just a botanical oddity, monstrosity, anomaly. I don't know what you call it, but it's just a fascinating plant. It's so big. These flowers are six-feet-tall. They have the potential to get up to 12-feet-tall," he said.

At Selby Gardens, they have twin corpse flowers, named Seymour and Audrey, which bloom within days of each other. Seymour just bloomed and Audrey is getting ready for her turn.

Once the flower opens, it tries to attract animals to help it pollinate. Apparently their putrid smell is the key. 

"What the plant is doing is a very tricky strategy to get pollinators that other plants may not be utilizing so they're attracting beetles and blow flies. They are looking to lay their eggs in a dead carcass in the jungle floor," said McLaughlin.

Corpse flowers are rare and very difficult to grow. They need warm, humid greenhouse conditions to thrive, which is perfect for Marie Selby. Once the flowers both bloom, McLaughlin and his team are ready.

"This gives us a great opportunity, as well, to cross pollinate so we can hopefully get some fruits and we can share some of our babies from Seymour and Audrey," he said.

Once the corpse flowers bloom, Selby Gardens will stay open untill 9 p.m for everyone to come by and smell the plant.

To check on the plants and to see when Audrey will bloom visit www.selby.org or check on Facebook under Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

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