Doom and Bloom: This Rare Flower at the Cincinnati Zoo Smells Like a Corpse

The scent of rotting flesh awaits with the impending bloom of Morticia, the Zoo’s most grotesque-smelling piece of greenery.

It will soon smell like the dead are rising at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The Zoo’s horticulture team has been excitedly awaiting the bloom of Morticia, a rare “corpse flower.” The pungent plant, gifted three years ago from the Chicago Botanic Garden, has recently begun showing signs of its once-in-a-decade blossoming.

Photograph courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

And you might have guessed from something called a “corpse flower,” its blossom isn’t exactly pleasant. In addition to its fantastic petals, this event also unveils a horrible smell, similar to a decaying corpse. The odor, combined with the flower’s appearance, intends to attract pollinators partial to dead creatures. The scent lasts between 24–36 hours. Once pollination is complete, the massive flower collapses into slumber once again.

So what’s with the excitement for such a ghastly plant? Part of the allure is the event’s rarity. On average, these flowers only bloom once every five to nine years. Even still, there are very few cultivated corpse flowers in the world—currently the count sits at around 1,000 individuals left in the wild.

For Zoo-goers and employees, novelty is the motivating factor for enduring such a stench. Cincinnati Zoo Horticulturist Jerome Stenger hopes to capture the experience first-hand. “We’ve all heard how bad the smell is, but it’s just one of those things that you want to experience in order to describe it in your own words.”

If you’re similarly moved by morbid curiosity, Morticia is waiting in the Zoo’s Discovery Forest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and free of additional charge. Her flowers are set to divulge their unique aroma anytime now.

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