Visitors to a Georgetown greenhouse may think they’re catching a whiff of something dying this week, but in fact, what they’re smelling is new life — the blooming of a rare tropical plant.
The aptly named corpse flower, known for emitting a putrid smell that resembles rotting flesh, bloomed Monday afternoon for only the second time since it was donated to the Nunan Florist & Greenhouses a decade ago, according to Maureen Nickerson, garden center manager.
“We’ve been waiting for it since 2012,” Nickerson said. “It doesn’t happen very often. It’s just something cool to have in the greenhouse.”
There is a smell to it, Nickerson added, saying that most visitors haven’t noticed it much, due to the daytime ventilation in the greenhouse. But it was a different story when she opened up shop on Tuesday morning, after all of the vents were turned off overnight.
“It was pretty gross,” she said. “The only way I could describe it is if you had a mouse die in your house and you tried to smell it.”
Nickerson said the rare plant, which only grows in the wild in the rainforests of Sumatra — an island in Indonesia where it is endangered due to deforestation — was donated to the center by a man who used to propagate them in his own greenhouse.
She said the plant was donated as it was about to flower, but it hasn’t bloomed again since. The corpse flower does not have an annual blooming cycle, so there’s no telling the next time it will happen, she said.
According to the U.S. Botanic Garden, which also houses a corpse flower, whether the plant blooms is dependent on there being enough accumulated energy in its underground stem, called a corm. Flowering is unpredictable, and could range from a few years to more than a decade.
Blooms don’t last long either, Nickerson said, explaining that she anticipates the 4-foot-tall corpse flower will start to close Wednesday, and go back to being a tree.
“It’s just a cool thing to have,” she said. “It’s something you don’t see every day.”
GEORGETOWN, MA – July 19: Ava Cruz, 12 of Methuenholds her nose as she poses in front of a corpse flower displayed at Nunan Florist & Greenhouses on July 19, 2022 in Georgetown, Massachusetts. The last time the smelly flower bloomed was 10 years ago. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) GEORGETOWN, MA – July 19: Robin Olson takes a selfie with her daughter Paige, 12 of Georgetown with a corpse flower displayed at Nunan Florist & Greenhouses on July 19, 2022 in Georgetown, Massachusetts. The last time the smelly flower bloomed was 10 years ago. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)