Environment

A beautiful but putrid-smelling flower has bloomed at the Yew Dell Botanical Gardens.

The so-called “corpse flower” blooms just once a year and wilts after two or three days.

So I dropped everything to drive to the gardens in Crestwood to smell this unusual flower. As I’m walking through the gardens to the green house, I catch up with Nancy Ogle, who brought her grandson Sam to behold the flower.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was large, beautiful kind of purple, and the smell was overwhelming,” she said.

Ogle said the aroma evoked rotting kale, but I was ready to smell for myself.

The odor hits you the moment you step into the green house. It comes in waves. It reminds me of when I used to work at a barbecue restaurant and had to climb on a dumpster at the end of the night to lift the lid and throw in the night’s trash.

But once you get passed the smell, there is this really beautiful flower. It’s about five-and-a-half feet tall and it looks like something out of an alien landscape. There’s this deep purple spike sticking out of the middle and it sparkles in the light.

Nursery Manager Jacob Stidham says the plant is native to South China, but does well in warm, humid environments.

“Oh and something else neat about it is the color of the flower is that it kind of resembles meat as well, like raw meat, it also puts off a bit of heat signature so that helps attract the bugs that pollinate it,” he said.

The smell and the color attract beetles, flies and insects that feed on carrion, i.e. dead animals.

The actual pollen resides deep inside the funnel, where there are actually hundreds of tiny flowers. Of course, you have to brave the smell to get close enough to see it.

Visitors can smell massive flower at the botanical gardens for free on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.