D.C.'s Worst-Smelling Plant Has Blossomed

Abby Ohlheiser

Attention, D.C. metro area: run, don't walk, to the U.S. Botanic Gardens, where our nation's "corpse flower" is in full bloom. This is not a drill or a metaphor. As of Sunday afternoon, you have 24-48 hours to approach the giant, tropical blossom, which will apparently be at its peak pungency Monday morning

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As you may have guessed from its nickname, the Titan arum is known for its rotting-flesh odor. That smell, as distinctive and powerful as it is on its own, is only heightened by the plant's ability to generate heat. After last week's nearly national heat wave, the effect of that heat on the foul odor of the plant should be obvious to most Americans. 

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Touchingly, this remarkable plant is located right next to the U.S. Capitol. But if you can't make it to the gardens by Tuesday, there's always the live webcam of the bloom (which, obviously, loses the most of its novelty in translation): 

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The last corpse flower bloom at the botanic gardens was in 2007, so this is actually a somewhat rare opportunity to voluntarily approach and take a whiff of one of the worst-smelling living things on this earth. The smell itself, of course, is functional. The odor attracts bugs, which allows for pollination. As botanic gardens spokesperson Ari Novy told the Washington Post, it's also a pretty good draw for people, too: 

“It’s just got everything for a good mystery. It’s cryptic. It’s exotic. The timing is off. It’s inconsistent. It’s inconsiderate. It’s got all those great things. It’s from far away, and it smells bad, and people get interested.”

They've even extended their visiting hours to accommodate the rush. Can't make it on such short notice? Don't worry. While each individual Titan arum plant only blooms once every several years, America has 14 corpse flower plants on hand at the botanic gardens.