Plenty of Stench to Go Around: 3 Corpse Flowers Prepare to Bloom at US Botanic Garden

WASHINGTON — Three corpse flowers — including a set of twins in the same pot — are preparing to bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden downtown.

“We think it’s unprecedented in North America to have three corpse flowers blooming at the same time in the same proximity at one botanic garden, so [it’s] pretty exciting,” said Susan Pell, deputy executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Bloom dates, based on current growth and previous experience, are projected to be sometime between Aug. 17 and Aug. 26. When each of the flowers blooms, it will release a malodorous stench for roughly six to eight hours with the bloom lasting between one and two days.

This will be the first bloom for both plants. The one with the twin flowers is estimated to be 12 years old. The single bloom plant is only five years old, which is unusually young.

“Sometimes they wait until they’re 10 or even older for their first bloom,” Pell said. “So this is an overachiever we’ve got here.”

Both plants are displaying unusual characteristics, in that the twin blooms sprouted from a plant that only recently had its leafy period. Typically there’s a dormancy period of several months between a leaf sprouting and dying and new buds forming for the subsequent flower. This one took a week.

Corpse flowers don’t bloom annually — the wait between blooms can be anywhere from a few years to a decade. So locals who were around to see last year’s corpse flower blooming at the U.S. Botanic Garden shouldn’t take this event for granted.

“This is a really rare occurrence,” Pell said. “It’s unusual that we would have two blooming events in a year and certainly to have three events in a year is really, really unusual.”

Fun fact: The plant of this year’s twin flowers is the parent of the corpse flower that bloomed at the Botanic Garden last year.

It's not actually a flower at all; it's an inflorescence

Susan Pell with WTOP's Kristi King | Aug. 10, 2017

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Have a look at the U.S. Botanic Gardens corpse-flower cam:

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