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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Ewww… What’s that Smell?

Ewww… What’s that Smell?

Corpse Flower
The world’s largest, stinkiest flowering plant is native to the Sumatran rain forest and rarely flowers in cultivation, but when it does, it gets a lot of press and crowds flock to get a whiff.

This giant stinker is the Amorphophallus titanium, better known as Titan Arum or simply the corpse flower, because of its death-like smell. There were fewer than 20 documented blooms of the Titan Arum in the U.S. between 1939 and 2006. From the University of California Davis Botanical Conservatory’s “Tabitha the Titan” to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s “Baby,” this magnificent species has captured the hearts and noses of the plant-loving public whenever it decides to bloom. And bloom it does: the corpse flower’s blossom, which is really made up of numerous smaller flowers, can grow to more than eight feet in height, opening as wide as 4 feet in diameter.

When in flower, it exudes a stench akin to rotting meat. The smell doesn’t last long, because although it takes its sweet time coming to its stinky fruition blooming just once every two to five years–the flower only lasts a few days. The super-sized stinker uses this odor to attract pollinating insects the same way sweet-smelling flowers do. But this flower attracts flies and carrion beetles that think the pungent fumes means food.

Stinking Benjamin
Another beautiful stinker native to the east and northeastern areas of North America is the purple trillium, or Trillium erectum. This smelly species is commonly known by the pretty name of Wake Robin, which it earned by being one of the first blooms of spring, and its not-so-pretty-name of Stinking Benjamin because an odor of rotting flesh surrounds this low-growing perennial. Think of the smell as a protective device that discourages hikers from picking trillium, which are rare and protected in many parts of the country.

Excerpted from the 2008 Farmers’ Almanac.

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