A minor botanical miracle is underway in the Bronx — the largest flower in the world is about to bloom in the New York Botanical Garden.
Corpse flowers are extremely difficult to convince to bloom while cultivated, and the horticulturists have been nurturing this plant for the last ten years. The flower is predicted to bloom anytime in the next few days. If you can’t make it to the Bronx to experience the bloom in person, the garden staff has posted a live video feed on the flower. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to experience the exquisite rotting corpse scent online.
During the last bloom of a Bronx corpse flower, back in 1939, it was declared the official flower of the borough. They probably didn’t mention that its scientific name Amorphophallus titanum means “large misshapen phallus.”
Nearly 200 pounds and roughly six feet tall, the corpse flower has been growing in the Nolen Greenhouses in the Botanical Garden for the last ten years. The conditions mimic the humidity and heat of Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia, where the species is originally found on steep hillsides high in the rainforest. For such an enormous plant, it doesn’t need a lot of soil — it’s sitting in a thin layer of sand under two to three inches of fertile soil. However, the staff has had to water and fertilize immensely to give the plant the energy it needs to produce its enormous bloom.
Close to four feet in diameter, the bloom is a deep red color and actually produces heat. Corpse flowers can heat up their blossoms to 90 degrees, which helps spread its disgusting scent and convince the carrion insects that it’s actually rotting meat.
When the flower blooms, the scent will be strongest overnight, during peak bloom on the first evening it is open. The putrid smell, combined with the heat the flower produces, is how the flower tricks nearby carrion beetles to come to the flower. Once they arrive they start looking for rotting flesh and get covered in pollen, ready to transmit to the next corpse flower that blooms.
Once the flower at the New York Botanical Garden starts to open, the flower is likely to be open for about 48 hours. Most corpse flowers bloom in the late afternoon, but once it opens, the bloom will be the most magnificent late in the evening after the garden is closed, so check the live cam that night to get the full visual experience. And if you want to mimic the smell while you watch, you can take a whiff of some decomposing meat — but that’s on you.
Here’s the live feed:
The timing was great for Rory and Lorelai of Gilmore Girls, who turn out to be fans of the corpse flower, according to a Netflix promo released for the return of the series posted today.
Photos via Getty Images / Stuart C. Wilson