ST. LOUIS, Mo. – It’s a gorgeously comfortable August day to explore the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Garden. So why are most people making their way inside the warm and humid Climatron? They want to meet Octavia.
Octavia is a titan arum or “corpse flower.” They bloom only rarely and under just the right conditions. When it does come into flower, the intense, foul odor, emitted from a tall spike of small flowers, lasts just a few hours.
Octavia now measures 102 inches, the tallest corpse flower yet at the Missouri Botanical Garden. All signs point to the fact that bloom time is approaching quickly.
You have knowing it takes around two weeks, the bract falling, the ruffles starting to color up, and it’s stopping it’s growth, all give you signs that it’s about time to open. Then it’s just a matter of when it decided to open,” explains Emily Colletti, a horticulturalist and aroid curator with the Garden.
The corpse flower is in the same botanical family as many common houseplants like peace lilies and philodendron. The Garden has the largest living collection of this family, collectively known as aroids.
So why does the titan arum emit a foul odor? It does it to attract pollinators such as flies and carrion beetles.
You have knowing it takes around two weeks, the bract falling, the ruffles starting to color up, and it’s stopping it’s growth, all give you signs that it’s about time to open. Then it’s just a matter of when it decided to open.
“The chemical compounds within the plant itself that create the delicious odor for the pollinators smell dreadfully bad. And it you take a combination of dirty socks and feces and boiling cabbage and Limburger cheese, and all those nasty kinds of things. Those are the compounds that are inside,” says Colletti.