This plant exhibit is making a big stink — and you’d better hurry up and get a whiff of it while you still can.
The rare corpse flower — which yes, gets its name because it gives off a stench of rotting flesh — began blooming at the New York Botanical Garden on Thursday night, a full decade after it was first potted in the Nolan Greenhouses.
Once word spread that the fetid flora would only be in peak bloom for a brief 24 to 36-hour window, horticulturalists and curiosity seekers raced death to the Bronx on Friday, where the garden extended its visiting hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lines of visitors stretched down the walkway to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, waiting to catch a glimpse (and a sniff).
They weren’t disappointed.
“I can’t say that I’ve smelled dead bodies before,” admitted Jade Cassady, 34, a Hells Kitchen teacher. “It smells more like you’re riding on a bike behind a dump truck.”
The enormous plant native to Sumatra in Indonesia can tower up to 12 feet tall in its natural habitat. It relies on flies and carrion eaters to pollinate, and attracts them by smelling like a dead body. It also lures scavengers with leaves that are a deep red fleshy color to complete that meaty illusion. This helped spawn the plant’s other colorful nickname: the devil’s tongue.
So why is a corpse flower such a rare event? This freak of nature needs a ton of energy to blossom. The plant bears leaves each year that draw energy from the sun, but it takes seven to 10 years to store enough juice to begin its two-day blooming cycle, when it lets its reeking flag fly.
It’s been almost 80 years since a corpse flower, or Amorphophallus titanum, last bloomed in the New York Botanical Garden in 1939. Then Bronx Borough President James J. Lyons was so smitten with the stinky sensation that he named the putrid posey the official flower of the Bronx, stating, “its tremendous size shall be symbolic of the large and fastest growing borough in the City of New York.” But the reeking stalk was replaced by the more fragrant day lily to represent the borough in 2000.
Today’s blooming specimen arrived in 2007, and the horticulturists have been agonizing over their foul garden jewel ever since, watering and fertilizing it almost constantly for the past decade. Their excitement reached fever-pitch on July 15 when they spied the long-awaited flower bud on the stalk.
“We’re thrilled that after over a week of eager anticipation, visitors now have a chance to see the corpse flower in bloom for themselves,” said NYBG spokesman Nicholas Leshi, who added that the rare bloom coincides with the garden’s 125th anniversary.
Once this wilts, probably by Saturday, it will be several years before the corpse flower will bloom again. Those who can’t get to the Bronx in time can watch the plant continue to unfurl on the 24/7 “Corpse Flower Cam” from the comfort of home — but they’ll miss savoring the infamous aroma.
Alex Kaplan, 35, a robotics technician from Riverdale, said, “it’s like a mixture of fish, meats and rats. It smells like the subway system on a summer day.”
But it’s a rose compared to New York during the recent heatwave. “It’s not as pungent as the city streets,” he said.
Ben Ho, 38, a Vassar professor, feared the crowds might overpower the flower’s scent. “With all the people crowded in here sweating, I’m surprised it doesn’t smell more like B.O.,” he said.
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