World’s smelliest flower set to bloom in Edmonton

Nature's stinkiest flower set to bloom at Edmonton's Muttart.
Amorphophallus titanum, commonly known as the “corpse flower.". Charles Taylor, Global News

EDMONTON – A giant plant is preparing to bloom in Edmonton, but visitors should be prepared to hold their noses.

Amorphophallus titanum, commonly known as the “corpse flower,” is expected to open in two to three weeks inside one of the city’s landmark glass pyramids at the Muttart Conservatory.

Staff horticulturist Sarah Birmingham said the day the flower opens, it will emit a stench similar to rotting meat.

“It’s such a rare thing. It’s the tallest and stinkiest plant and it’s really neat that it has the ability to emulate a dead body in order to get the pollinators (which are carrion beetles and flesh flies) to come smell it.”

In its natural habitat, the plant can expel this smell hundreds of feet.

The promised putrid odour has led staff to nickname their newest attraction Putrella, Birmingham said. Those preparing for the big day are even thinking about handing out souvenir barf bags.

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“I don’t think it will assault your senses so much that it’s going to make you physically nauseous, but you never know,” Birmingham said with a smile.

“But if you’re coming to see it, you should be aware that it stinks and take a deep breath before you come in. Take a picture and let the others do the same thing. Then you can go outside and get some fresh air.”

The tropical plant is found in the wild in Sumatra, an island in Indonesia, but is also grown in greenhouses around the world. Each time it blooms, it’s an event.

Another corpse flower bloomed this week in Miami and one opened last year in Niagara Falls, Ont. The Edmonton flower will be the first to bloom in Western Canada, said Birmingham.

She said Putrella came from Boston last summer as a 275-pound tuber, the size of a tire, packed in dirt. In March, a bud cracked through the soil and has grown 60 inches in the past 30 days. Last weekend, staff became certain it would flower.

It can sometimes take years for the plant to develop a flower and the bud grows several metres tall before opening.

And when it does, it’s supposed to be an amazing sight: a giant, purple-reddish bloom, like something out of the Little Shop of Horrors movie.

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The world record for the largest bloom is 10 feet and 2.25 inches.

“We don’t know how tall ours is going to be and it’s the first one to be grown in Western Canada,” Birmigham said, “so we’re hoping that it can actually become a world record holder for the Muttart Conservatory.”

Anyone who wants to see Putrella will have to hurry, though, because its bloom is supposed to only last for a few days and its unforgettable scent will last for only one.

“Everyone’s really excited about it. There’ve been 4,000 hits on our Facebook page in last three hours.”

She said the Muttart will announce the bloom on Facebook as soon as it happens. Visiting hours might also be extended for a few days.

With files from Global Edmonton

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