Want to smell discarded diapers?

Photo: Twitter

A rare, exotic tropical plant known for its putrid bouquet is set to bloom under the dome at Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. The titan arum (or corpse flower) is the largest flower on earth. When it blooms, it unleashes the smell of rotting flesh. Some have also described its unmistakable scent as similar to discarded diapers or hot garbage.

No wonder the suspense is building at Bloedel, where the titan arum or corpse flower looks ready to unfurl its giant petal any day now.

Corpse blooms are very rare and unpredictable. Bloedel’s specimen is now six years old and showing signs it will bloom imminently: its bud has grown rapidly over the past few weeks, with the flower ‘spike’ rocketing to five feet tall in the last six weeks.

When it blooms, it will unfurl its large flesh-coloured petal and start to emit rancid fumes to attract pollinator insects like carrion beetles and flesh flies that feed on dead animals. The public doesn’t need to worry about encountering such insects at Bloedel Conservatory.

“The Park Board was very fortunate to acquire this rare plant a few years ago,” said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon. “Our excellent horticultural staff have lovingly tended it ever since. Any day now residents and visitors will have a chance to witness one of nature’s strangest displays.”

Bloedel Conservatory is planning to extend its hours for a “smell it while you can” experience during the fleeting blooming spectacle which will last just 24 to 48 hours.

In cultivation, the titan arum generally requires 7–10 years of vegetative growth before blooming for the first time. Some plants may not bloom again for another decade while others may bloom every two to three years.  The stinky flowers are native to the equatorial rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia and are classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened plants.

Vancouver joined a handful of North American cities to possess a corpse flower when the Vancouver Park Board acquired its own in 2016 from a North Carolina nursery. This will be the first time a titan arum has bloomed in BC. Earlier this year, a corpse flower dubbed “Gagnes” bloomed at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton.

Local residents will have a chance to name the Bloedel specimen in an online competition over the next days. To learn more visit: vancouver.ca/corpseflower