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Plug your nose! Malodorous corpse flower to bloom soon at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

A person poses for a portrait
Jen Love, a horticulturist, poses for a portrait at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory on Thursday in St. Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Posted: May 8, 1:40 p.m. | Updated: May 9, 1:30 p.m.

The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory said one of its rarest — and most pungent flowers — is about to bloom.

The corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) affectionately nicknamed “Horace” will bloom for the first time since arriving at Como in 2019.

The flowers are known for the odor of rot they give off when they bloom and are incredibly rare — fewer than 1,000 individual plants remain in the wild, making witnessing its brief and malodorous bloom a rare opportunity.

“If you’ve ever smelled a dead animal, you’re going to maybe suspect that’s what it is,” said Jen Love, the horticulturist at Como Conservatory that’s been taking care of Horace. “It’s sort of like really terrible, hot garbage.”

The corpse flower is seen
The corpse flower is seen at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory on Thursday in St. Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Love has been taking care of Horace for the past five years. From seed to flower, corpse flower plants typically take seven to 10 years to grow. After the initial flowering, the plant will usually stink up the joint again every two to four years.

Love expects this plant to bloom sometime before May 19, most likely in the next seven to 10 days. Once it does, it will only emit its rotting smell for about 24 hours. The smell is most pungent at night.

Corpse flower plants emit heat and their horrible smell to attract pollinators that are also attracted to rotting animals, like carrion beetles and flies.

A person poses for a portrait
Jen Love, a horticulturist, poses for a portrait at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory on Thursday in St. Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“The plant that it might cross pollinate with might be miles away, so you want those pollinators to come in from pretty far,” said Love.

While Love has smelled the corpse flower’s relatives when they emit a very similar stench, Horace will be the first corpse flower she’s grown and smelled.

“I’m super excited,” Love said. “Not that I love terrible smells, but it would just be interesting.”

While some couples worry about rain on their wedding day, the same concerns are not usually extended to stinky plants. On the weekend it is set to bloom, there are multiple wedding receptions planned in the room next to the corpse flower’s greenhouse.

The corpse flower is seen
The corpse flower is seen at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory on Thursday in St. Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“I’m crossing my fingers that it blooms Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Matt Reinartz, Como’s marketing and public relations director. “If not, I’m going to have to get this to a different spot.”

The rotting corpse flower smell can be detected up to a one-half mile away.

“The bride doesn’t want to have rotting meat smell [at her reception],” Reinartz added.

Brave sniffers can see and smell Horace at the Como’s Exhibit Gallery daily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. A livestream is also available:

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