Thousands Watch as Giant Flower That Smells Like Death Blooms for First Time in a Decade
The corpse flower, best know for its terrible smell, is blooming in two locations in the U.S. But you might not want to stop and smell this flower.
Photo credit: U.S. Botanic Garden via Wikimedia Commons
Brave soles—or those that don't have a sense of smell—can bare witness to this once-a-decade event at New York Botanical Garden and the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. The flower only blooms for about 24 to 48 hours. The New York corpse flower is currently in bloom, but Washingtonians are still awaiting their chance to see one of the world's largest and rarest flowers, which is expected to bloom any time between July 28 and 31.
"When it blooms, the corpse flower will release a scent that's been compared to the odor of rotting flesh," Marc Hachadourian, manager of New York Botanical Garden's Nolen Greenhouses, told The Huffington Post. "It's foul and nasty, but the plant does this to attract pollinators that are attracted to dead animals."
Unfortunately, the corpse flower doesn't just smell like rotting flesh. In fact, floriculturist Tim Pollak at the Chicago Botanic Garden, analyzed the flower's stench. It consists of:
- dimethyl trisulfide—also emitted by cooked onions and limburger cheese, known for its pungent smell
- dimethyl disulfide—which has an odor like garlic
- trimethylamine—found in rotting fish or ammonia
- isovaleric acid—which also causes sweaty socks to stink
- phenol—sweet and medicinal, as in Chloraseptic throat spray
- indole—like mothballs
- benzyl alcohol—a sweet floral scent found in jasmine and hyacinth
Jasmine. That's a plus. Pollak said the corpse flower does have a scientific reason behind its terrible smell.
"The smell, color and even temperature of corpse flowers are meant to attract pollinators and help ensure the continuation of the species," he told Live Science.
Embrace The Stink: The NYBG's Corpse Flower Is Here, Beautiful And Smelly https://t.co/PKjvNzn6gy https://t.co/0ysJA8YPoO— Gothamist (@Gothamist)1469797801.0
Dung beetles, flesh flies and other carnivorous insects are the corpse flower's primary pollinators. These insects, which usually eat dead flesh, are attracted by the smell and the dark burgundy color of the flower's petals.
"Corpse flowers are also able to warm up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7 Celsius) to further fool the insects," Pollak said. "The insects think the flower may be food, fly inside, realize there is nothing to eat, and fly off with pollen on their legs. Once the flower has bloomed and pollination is complete, the flower collapses."
The corpse flower was first discovered in Sumatra in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. The plant, which grows in the wild only in Asia, is becoming increasingly rare due to deforestation, pollution, farming and other factors that decrease its natural habitat.
#TBT to our 1937 #corpseflower, when "the odor ... came in waves of varying intensity." #nybglibrary #bronxhistory https://t.co/xuk8rqMtKl— NY Botanical Garden (@NY Botanical Garden)1469725299.0
The pungent flower can grow between 10 and 15 feet. Its leaves can be as big as 13 feet wide. The tallest bloom recorded, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was a corpse flower measuring 10 feet 2.25 inches, blooming on June 18, 2010 at Winnipesaukee Orchids in Gilford, New Hampshire.
If you don't want to endure the stench, New York Botanical Gardens has a live cam of the flower. You can watch others suffer the smell as you sit comfortably at home or work, hopefully smelling something better:
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
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<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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