If You Smelt It, The Corpse Flower Dealt It

A corpse flower bloomed at the New York Botanical Garden. Its smell lives up to its name.

Behold the mighty corpse flower. This massive flower, native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and weighing up to 200 pounds, is aptly named. While its rotten scent is utterly repulsive to humans, the flower smells like a delicious meal to insect pollinators that feed on dead animals.  

The plant rarely blooms—it happens once every 7 to 10 years, lasting only 36 hours—so when it happened in Science Friday’s backyard, we had to smell it for ourselves.

The SciFri staff recently took a trip out to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, New York to catch a whiff of this massive, stinky flower so you didn’t have to. We spoke to Marc Hachadourian, the Director of The NYBG’s Nolen Greenhouses for Living Collections, who told us how it has “mastered the art of looking like a dead thing.”

Listen to the audio diary below as you scroll through the photos.

the corpse flower, with a green base, a large purple petal, and a very tall yellow stem rising out from the middle

Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt

The exterior of a greenhouse with a domed glass roof. above the front entrance it says "enid a. haupt conservatory" and "a world of plants"
Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt
woman walking among gardens with greenhouse behind her
Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt
man in green NYBG shirt

Marc Hachadourian explaining how the corpse flower works. Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt

woman scrunching up her face in reaction to the smell of the flower

Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt

group of people observing the giant corpse flower

Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt

the corpse flower, with a green base, a large purple petal, and a very tall yellow stem rising out from the middle

Credit: Daniel Peterschmidt

Meet the Writers

About Daniel Peterschmidt

Daniel Peterschmidt is a digital producer and composes music for Science Friday’s podcast, Undiscovered. His D&D character is a clumsy bard named Chip Chap Chopman.

About Lucy Huang

Lucy Huang was Science Friday’s summer 2018 radio intern. When she’s not covering science stories, she’s busy procrasti-baking.

Explore More

Mapping The Journey Of Marine Animal Migrations

Locked within each map is a story.

Read More