Wee Stinky

The excitement at Cornell these days surrounds a big flower we have on campus. A very big flower. And a stinky one. Hence the name “Wee Stinky.” The flower has its own blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, live webcam, etc. It’s a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum — I’ll let you figure out what the Latin name means). The bud was over six feet tall before it finally started opening last night. So this morning before my first class I trekked three quarters of a mile to the other end of campus to go have a look for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me, but here’s a picture I found online from the last time it flowered a few years ago:

Two interesting facts about titan arums:

  • They don’t just have a generic corpse aroma (and, yes, the smell is very strong and can be smelled from far away). Titan arums smell like rotting fish with, to my nose at least, a bit of old, sweaty sock smell thrown in. There is another arum species, however, that smells like rotting rats rather than rotting fish.
  • The smell distribution is aided by heat. The plant heats the inside of the flower to over a 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
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