The Franklin Park Zoo is preparing for one of its largest plants to blossom within the next week. While seeing the “corpse flower” bloom is rare, the highlight of the event is the smell.
Fester, one of the zoo’s more exotic flowers, literally smells like death. The plant is an Amorphophallus titanum, a breed that emits a putrid aroma close to that of rotting meat when it blooms.
The smell is necessary to attract the carnivorous insects that pollinate the plant, but has onlookers pinching their noses to catch a glimpse of the bloom. It has more than earned the nickname “corpse flower.”
“The smell is strongest first thing in the morning,” says Harry Liggett, Zoo New England manager of horticulture and grounds. “To be safe, [visitors] could bring a good old fashioned clothespin for your nose and, of course, a camera to take some photos.”
These plants can go many years without blooming. When they do, it lasts only 24 to 48 hours. There is no way of knowing the exact date Fester will bloom, but all signs point to soon.
The plant has bloomed twice before, in 2012 and 2014, and is growing rapidly in preparation for its next showcase. Corpse flowers can grow up to 9 feet in their lifetime, and 4 to 5 inches a day as they prepare to bloom.
The flower, which originates from Sumatra, has demanding environmental requirements and conditions. When it does open its petals, the green exterior reveals a beautiful, bright-purple flower — and that rancid smell.
The corpse flower typically opens up late at night, offering an awful odor to anyone who passes by. Staff say they’ve come into work early in the morning and have been able to smell it through the entire building.
The Franklin Park Zoo has seven corpse flowers, but Fester is the only one on display. You can find the smelly plant in the zoo’s Tropical Forest.
If you go:
Franklin Park Zoo, 1 Franklin Park Road, zoonewengland.org/franklin-park-zoo