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‘Morticia': A corpse by any other name smells as sweet

Spectators have been on ice waiting for ‘Morticia’ to bloom.

Since Saturday, thousands of visitors have dropped by the greenhouse at the Franklin Park Zoo hoping to get a peek, and a whiff, of a corpse flower that experts predicted would bloom sometime over the weekend.

As of yesterday afternoon, the 200-pound flower, which staff has named "Morticia," had still not opened, and the anticipation was really getting to Harry Liggett, the zoo's horticulture manager.

"I think they call it a corpse flower because the fool that watches it becomes a mindless zombie... It's exhausting," Liggett said yesterday, after days in the hot, muggy greenhouse, where he fielded hundreds of questions from visitors who were eager to catch a glimpse of the bloom.

For many, the appeal of the rare flower, which stands at nearly five feet tall, is not so much in its beauty, but in its infamous stench.

Formally called Amorphophallus titanium, but also known as a titan arum, the corpse flower only blossoms once every seven to 10 years. According to Liggett, the flower is only open for about 12 hours.

And when it is, it really clears the room.

"It is very intriguing because you don't usually see a huge plant like this," said Benjamin Chow, who stopped by the zoo Sunday. "I was curious what the smell of rotting flesh would be like. Hey, I still feel like I want to see what it smells like. I guess curiosity gets the best of me."

Chow is one many who are not afraid to admit a common, albeit morbid, interest in the unusual scent.

"It would intrigue me, but we're not going to wait all night for it," said Daniel Amstutz, who also checked out the flower on Sunday.

People describe the aroma as being similar to rotting meat, hence, the charming nickname.

Yesterday, the flower's circumference grew two inches since Sunday, a sure indication that a bloom was imminent.

The odor began to sneak out as well.

One happy, stinky family




Morticia is not the only corpse flower at the zoo; there are four more, all donated by an oral surgeon in Laconia, N.H.

Her brother, "Fester," who stood at 5-foot-6, also bloomed about two weeks ago. The other corpse flowers are smaller, and are known as "Pugsly," also of the Addams Family, "Vincent," as in Price, and "Edgar," as in Poe.

Bloomings tend to happen in the evening, Liggett said.

"Fester bloomed we're guessing about 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. Security was the only witness. They said it smelled really awful," Liggett said.

The worst of the smell comes at its initial opening, before dissipating.

Liggett estimates there are about a dozen blooms worldwide every year.

Flower facts




The Franklin Park Zoo received a total of five corpse flowers on April 28.



Native to Indonesia, they are very rare in the United States



Typically each plant blooms only once every 7-10 years



The exact age of the flowers are unknown



The flower will go back into dormancy after blooming, then eventually it will send out a leaf.



As of yesterdday, Morticia was 57.5 inches tall with a 38" circumference. She grew 1.5 inches taller and 2 inches in circumference since Sunday morning, "and a slight aroma was noticeable," zoo officials said.

 
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