Last weekend, thousands of people in two different parts of the world witnessed the same historic event - The opening of the Titan Arum, commonly known 'Corpse' flower, thanks to its pungent odor that smells like rotting flesh.
The almost simultaneous bloomings that occurred at the University of Basle in Switzerland and Ohio State University in Columbus, were also watched by thousands of people all over the world, thanks to the live webcams that recorded every second of the historic events.
The reason for all this hoopla is that this endangered exotic-looking flower, blooms only once every ten years - and the one in Switzerland took even longer, blooming after 75 years. However when it does unfurl its petals the stench it lets out is so bad, that is has rightfully earned the title of the 'World's Stinkiest Flower'. Luckily, it stays in bloom for only about two to three days.
As with every thing in nature, there is a perfectly good reason for the stench - It's meant to lure insects in to help pollination. Experts believe that the competition for normal pollinators like bees is so high in the tropical climate where this plants grows, that it has figured out how to recruit a totally different kind of pollinator - insects that feed on dead animals. These include flies, beetles and wasps, which are attracted to the stench and crawl into the flower. Once inside, they get trapped to the sticky pollen. As soon as that happens the flowers wither out, allowing the insects to escape with the pollen stuck onto their bodies.
In the wild, the Titan Arum can be found only in the equatorial forests of Sumatra, Indonesia. The plants, which resemble a small tree, grow really fast - about a quarter of an inch every hour. Fully-grown Titan Arums, can reach heights in excess of 20ft., widths close to 16ft. and weigh as much as 70lbs.
While there are many conservatories around the world that cultivate these exotic giant plants, only 134 of these have ever bloomed, which explains the excitement generated when one does.
Resources: Torontosun.com, tweentribune.com, csmonitor.com,biology.fullerton.edu