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Invasion of the corpse flower

By Katia Hetter, CNN
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Mon July 22, 2013
The U.S. Botanic Garden's corpse flower started blooming July 21. It's shown here Monday around 8 a.m.
The U.S. Botanic Garden's corpse flower started blooming July 21. It's shown here Monday around 8 a.m.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A corpse flower at the U.S. Botanic Garden has started blooming for the first time ever
  • Native to the rainforests of Indonesia, the stinky plants can take years to bloom
  • When they start blooming, they may remain in bloom for 24 to 48 hours, then collapse

(CNN) -- Finally, we have a new arrival.

No, not the royal baby. A corpse flower.

The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory finally started blooming and stinking like rotting flesh on Sunday around 4 p.m.

It may remain in bloom for 24 to 48 hours, and then it will collapse quickly.

The plant, which has lived at the garden since 2007, doesn't have an annual blooming cycle. This is its first-ever cycle, and dedicated fans might wait years or decades between cycles.

The garden is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday. If you can't make it to the nation's capital, watch it online on the garden's live flower cam.

Once the garden confirmed on July 8 that the plant was going to bloom, staffers moved quickly to display it publicly on July 11.

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The plant tends to heat up, starts smelling stinky and usually blooms overnight or in the early morning hours. The heat and smell are to attract pollinator insects such as dung beetles in its natural habitat, said Ari Novy, the garden's public programs manager. The garden doesn't have any such beetles, but resident flies may visit, he said.

The U.S. Botanic Garden\'s corpse flower (titan arum) is shown here last week, not yet blooming.
The U.S. Botanic Garden's corpse flower (titan arum) is shown here last week, not yet blooming.

A native of Sumatra, Indonesia, this particular plant is part of the garden's collection of 14 corpse flowers. They are rarely put on display because they require a lot of heat and humidity, which is why they are grown at the garden's production greenhouses in Southeast Washington -- rarely open to the public.

The U.S. Botanic Garden last displayed a blooming titan arum in 2007. At least seven U.S. institutions have at least one titan arum in their collections.

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium saw its oldest corpse flower bloom earlier this month, attracting about 4,000 visitors over three days, said garden spokesman Franck Hidvegi. It previously bloomed in 2008 and 2011. The garden has another four plants in its greenhouses, but Hidvegi said they are still too young to bloom.

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