Chicago Botanic Garden

Rare ‘Corpse Flower' Opened Manually at Chicago Botanic Garden

The plant blooms for a single day every seven to 10 years

The wait is over! Staff at the Chicago Botanic Garden opened the exotic, smelly "corpse flower" Sunday morning, but the insides were without their trademark scent.

After failing to bloom over the last several days, garden scientists and horticulturists determined that the plant lacked the energy to open up by itself. Instead of letting it bloom naturally, garden staff manually opened up the plant, allowing visitors to glimpse the rare flower's insides.

Garden staff removed the spathe and cut around the base of the flower just above where it attaches to the stalk of the plant. They then examined it to determine if the male flowers are functional. If they are, scientists will harvest pollen for use in future pollination.

Unfortunately — or fortunately — "Spike" did not emit the the odor that "corpse flowers" are known for, and it did not bloom.

Usually the "corpse flower," which is the largest flowering structure in the world, blooms for a single day every seven to 10 years. Staff at the Chicago Botanic Garden waited a whopping 12 years for "Spike" to blossom.

The flower, which is known for its unpleasant scent, would have been the first to bloom in the Chicago area.

“When it blooms, it puts on a show like no other,” Tim Pollak, the outdoor floriculturist for the garden, wrote on the garden's website.

But the remarkable sight is usually met with a "decaying, rancid, rotten stench" that the garden says can be detected up to an acre away. Pollack says visitors who are lucky — or unlucky — enough to see "Spike" in bloom will smell a mixture of limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, a sweet floral scent and mothballs.

Instead of seeing the bloom for 24 hours, visitors can take a look at the spathe, which will be on display through Monday.

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