D.C.'s titan arum blooms

The titan arum, otherwise known as the “corpse plant” at the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C., doesn’t always have its putrid scent. (Source: Eddie Scarry/TheBlaze)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The blooming of that much-hyped “corpse flower” in Washington drew droves of visitors to the Botanical Garden in-part because of what it was supposed to smell like. A line wrapped around the outside of the building on Monday where eager men, women and children waited just to get a glimpse and whiff of the massive plant. But once inside, the unexpected happened: There was no smell.

Aside from what you would expect to smell inside a greenhouse — grassy smells and a bit of dirt — there was nothing. The plant didn’t smell like the rotting flesh that had been promised. It smelled like nothing, at least from the rope line, which kept viewers at bay by about five feet.

“It doesn’t smell at all,” one woman exiting the exhibit said. “It doesn’t smell like anything,” said another.

Emily Clarke, a 29-year-old legal assistant, told TheBlaze she didn’t smell anything either. “No, probably the body odor of the other people in there is what we were smelling,” she said.

Melody, a mother visiting with her two children who only offered her first name, also smelled nothing. “It’s called a ‘corpse flower,’ right? I didn’t really smell corpse. Of course I’ve never smelled a corpse before.” Asked if she was disappointed, she said, Yes. “I guess a little bit. I thought it would be a stronger smell. I thought it would kind of hit me when I walked in,” she said.

So what happened?  Why was everyone who wanted to see the flower during Monday’s lunch hour denied the foul odor they came to experience firsthand?

The plant only releases the smell every several hours, one Garden aide explained to TheBlaze. It began blooming Sunday afternoon and “peak smell” was expected early Monday morning. While the flower will eventually release its scent again during its 24 to 48-hour lifespan, it doesn’t linger for its entire blooming period.

titan arum

The titan arum, otherwise known as the “corpse plant” at the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C., doesn’t always have its putrid scent. (Source: Eddie Scarry/TheBlaze)

titan arum

The titan arum, otherwise known as the “corpse plant” at the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C., doesn’t always have its putrid scent. (Source: Eddie Scarry/TheBlaze)

titan arum

Botanical Garden visitors get a glimpse, but not a whiff, of the notoriously smelly “corpse flower” in Washington, D.C. (Source: Eddie Scarry/TheBlaze)

Other things to know about the plant:

  • It’s officially known as Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum.
  • It doesn’t bloom annually; and it’s actual cycle is unpredictable.
  • Its stench is meant to attract bugs that like smelly things, such as dung beetles, for pollination purposes.
  • It is native to Sumatra, Indonesia; in its natural rainforest habitat, it can grow up to 12 feet tall.
  • This particular titan arum was given to the Garden in 2007; this year was its first bloom.

Follow Eddie Scarry on Twitter.