Prepare for smelly sight: Corpse flower of DC to bloom soon

Pictured July 24, the plant is 54 inches. It grew 20 inches in less than a week. On July 18, it was just 34 inches tall. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
Pictured July 24, the plant is 54 inches. It grew 20 inches in less than a week. On July 18, it was just 34 inches tall. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)

Pictured July 25, the plant measured 61 inches, which is tall for a bloom on a plant only 6 years old. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
Pictured July 25, the plant measured 61 inches, which is tall for a bloom on a plant only 6 years old. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)

Corpse flowers don't bloom annually. This one at the U.S. Botanic Garden happened in 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
Corpse flowers don’t bloom annually. This one at the U.S. Botanic Garden happened in 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)

This is an overhead view of the 2013 peak bloom. In the wild, the corpse flower can reach 12 feet tall. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
This is an overhead view of the 2013 peak bloom. In the wild, the corpse flower can reach 12 feet tall. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)

(1/4)
Pictured July 24, the plant is 54 inches. It grew 20 inches in less than a week. On July 18, it was just 34 inches tall. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
Pictured July 25, the plant measured 61 inches, which is tall for a bloom on a plant only 6 years old. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
Corpse flowers don't bloom annually. This one at the U.S. Botanic Garden happened in 2013. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)
This is an overhead view of the 2013 peak bloom. In the wild, the corpse flower can reach 12 feet tall. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Gardens)

WASHINGTON — Visitors are being given a special opportunity to enjoy something truly revolting: the U.S. Botanic Garden plans extended hours for the blooming of the corpse flower.

The Amorphophallus titanum typically blooms for 24 to 48 hours and is most odoriferous at night. Peak bloom is estimated to occur July 28-31.

“We’re open until 8 p.m. every night while the flower is getting ready to bloom. As soon as we see it’s going into its ‘stench cycle’ let’s call it — we’re going to stay open until 11 o’clock at night,” said Ari Novy, the executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Past experience suggests the plant will be smelliest between about 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Some describe the scent as a combination of garlic, fish, diapers and rotting meat, according to U.S. Botanic Gardens exhibits specialist Devin Dotson.

The plant releases a low-level odor during the day.

This particular plant is precocious according to Novy because this, its first bloom, is happening at 6 years old, when some plants may take decades to bloom. Also, it’s expected to reach six feet tall, when the flower on younger plants tends to be smaller.

“So, we’re looking at a little bit of a prodigy,” Novy said.

Especially warm temperatures this week could accelerate peak bloom predicted for as early as Thursday. The U.S. Botanic Garden is on the southwest side of the U.S. Capitol at 100 Maryland Ave. SW.

And here’s a bit of trivia: “It’s actually not one single flower even though it looks like it,” Novy said. “It’s a collection of about several hundred flowers that combine into one floral organ.” That makes the corpse flower the largest of its kind (unbranched inflorescence) in the plant kingdom.

For those who can’t make it to the gardens, they can access an online livestream to watch the bloom:

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up