As its petals close, scent of 'corpse flower' at Phipps fades

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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden has never had so many people enter its doors in a two-day period just to see -- and smell -- one stinky plant.

A total of 12,032 people braved the death-like, rotting odor of the "corpse flower" on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 9,233 people visited just on Wednesday (including two hours early Thursday), during the blooming of Amorphophallus titanum. Phipps extended its hours until 2 a.m. for two days, and some people waited for more than an hour for a close-up look and sniff.

Both numbers broke Phipps' attendance records -- which go back to 1993 -- of people visiting the conservatory in one and two days.

Corpse Flower bloom timelapse

'Romero' the corpse flower only blooms perhaps once in 10 years and appeared ready to spread its spathe. A few hours later, it started to bloom. Here is a time-lapse of its journey. (Courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens)

Thousands visit Phipps to see 'Romero' the corpse flower

Ben Dunigan and his team at Phipps have worked for three years to get a corpse flower to bloom. What does it smell like? Everyone has a different opinion. One thing for sure, it's not roses. (Video by Doug Oster; 8/21/2013)

The flower affectionately named "Romero," after zombie filmmaker George Romero, was open for roughly 30 hours, starting at about 5 p.m. Tuesday until it began to close late Wednesday night.

These flowers typically bloom for just 24 to 48 hours and then may not bloom again for six years or more. Native to Indonesia, the flower emits a "rotting elephant" smell to attract pollinators such as flies and beetles.

Although the dark purple petals of the flower have closed and its putrid odor has faded, its withering state is still a sight to see.

"It still has this very alien, avatar look to it," said Ben Dunigan, Phipps' curator of horticulture.

Now about 40 pounds, the 5-foot-tall plant will lose about 50 percent of its weight as it retracts into dormancy.

As it shrinks, Mr. Dunigan said, "The very large towering column in the middle of it will fall down to the side, and the petal-looking structure will start to wither away and turn into a flaky, papery substance."

After the plant collapses, it will be taken from display while it goes dormant, he said.

In addition to selling T-shirts and other paraphernalia tied to the blooming, Phipps hosted two showings Wednesday of "Night of the Living Dead," and served cocktails created for the occasion to entertain the crowds.

This was the first blooming of the plant at Phipps; it has been there since 2010.

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Marina Weis: First Published August 22, 2013 4:45 AM


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