Tonight was a first. Not the kind of first I’ve spoken of before. And not a “first time by myself“. But an actual I’ve-never-done-that-before first. I went to see a plant that is said to smell like rotting flesh. Seriously, its smell is described as decomposing animal carcass, dead fish, or just plain old corpse.
This plant is commonly referred to as the “corpse plant” or “corpse flower” and it blooms only once every decade or so. It only lives for up to 48 hours afterwards before dying off and waiting another ten years to bloom. So when I read in the paper that it was blooming late last night, I decided it was something I had to see. It’s not like a movie where you can go the next weekend or catch it on DVD. It was now or a decade from now. So I bit the bullet and went. By myself.
It was a bit strange for me to do this on my own. This is the kind of thing about which I would get excited, and then my enthusiasm would infect my husband, or vice versa. We would have made plans to see the corpse plant and then have dinner, because who wouldn’t work up an appetite after that? It would have been one of those unusual Date Nights that were actually commonplace for us. But tonight I was on my own.
I drove to the college where the plant was blooming, parked in the “nearby” parking garage and headed to the greenhouse. They exaggerated how close the building was to the garage, but that was alright. It was a beautiful breezy night, and I enjoyed the walk. I tried to focus on my surroundings and not just rush to my destination, although truth be told, I was excited to smell this thing! Just what does that say about me? So I enjoyed my stroll through the lovely little campus and followed the signs that said “Corpse Plant THIS WAY —>” until I finally got to the greenhouse. It was filled with all kinds of plants, mostly tropical, and mostly unusual and I tried to prolong my anticipation (because I’m one of those people who love surprises) by inspecting some of the other unique plants and flowers.
The greenhouse wasn’t that big, however, and it didn’t take long before I was standing in front of it. The first thing I noticed was that it’s rather tall and is essentially a pillar inside a one-layer cabbage. The second thing I realized was that it was already dying. The cylinder in the center was starting to droop. When I leaned forward to smell inside it fully expecting to smell “death”, I was a bit disappointed. (Yes, I realize how very strange I am. That’s another one of those little things I’ll miss about my husband – he allowed me to proudly wave my freak flag and didn’t judge me for it.)
It didn’t smell like “rotting flesh” to me; rather, it smelled like rotting vegetation or a bag of trash that has been in the sun too long waiting for the garbage man to show.
We have a family story about “rotting trash smell” that I won’t share because I don’t want to embarrass that particular family member who shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, it was a rather unpleasant odor emanating from that individual that was memorable enough for my husband to talk about it for years. I couldn’t help but smile and think he was with me on Date Night after all. I sent our oldest daughter the pictures of the plant and told her what it smelled like, and she said he would have loved it and “rotting trash” was his favorite story.
The odor that was coming from the plant wasn’t as strong or pungent as I had expected, but I was informed that it was definitely stronger when it first opened. After smelling it for a short while (lest someone thought me genuinely insane, I took my pictures and then made my way back through the greenhouse toward the door, stopped to take other photos and inspect other plants of interest along the way. One of the greenhouse keepers (?? Is that what they’re called? Or would they be considered botanists? I’m sorry I didn’t think to ask.)showed me the Voodoo Lily that had also bloomed last night. It is apparently in the same family as the Corpse Flower, and from the same gener region (Asia), but blooms on a much more regular basis – every three years. So it seems I got a 2-for-1 in rare plant bloomings.
When I finally exited the building and made my way back across the campus toward my car, it was with a bit of pride for not allowing myself to talk me out of going. It was a small (odd) step toward learning who I am. Apparently, I’m into weird smelling plants. Who knew?
P.S. If you’re interested in seeing the plant bloom for yourself, check out this time-lapse video of the process. And if you want the true experience, watch it while sitting at the dump on a hot Summer day.
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