News & Politics

A “Corpse Flower” Is Currently in Bloom at the Botanic Garden

But hurry if you want to catch a glimpse (and a whiff of the putrid plant) before it's gone.

A corpse flower bloom in 2022. Photograph courtesy of the United States Botanic Garden.

The United States Botanic Garden smelled distinctly like a dead body last night, but there wasn’t any foul play involved. One of the garden’s fleeting, foul-smelling “Corpse Flowers” opened in the evening, releasing its famous stench into the air.

The aptly-named flower is known for its huge size (growing up to 12 feet tall in the wild), its ephemeral bloom cycle, and its unique smell – which is often likened to the scent of rotting flesh or hot garbage. 

As part of an ongoing conservation project, the US Botanic Garden hosts and breeds more than 20 mature corpse flowers (or “Amorphophallus Titanum”), which are endangered on their native island of Sumatra, Indonesia. The six-year-old plant that bloomed last night was created at the USBG through hand-pollination in 2017, marking the first-ever bloom of that particular specimen and the second bloom of the year. The first corpse flower of 2024 opened on the evening of April 24, measuring in at 85 inches tall.

The flowering time is unpredictable, so it’s hard to say if there will be another chance to view one of the smelly flowers anytime soon. In 2022, four USBG specimens bloomed throughout the summer, while no flowers opened in 2023. Although the Botanic Garden has much sweeter-smelling specimens in its collection, this putrid plant may be its most popular; the short-lived blooms often draw in thousands of fascinated patrons.

If you want to see (and maybe smell) the special flower you’ll need to move quickly. After opening, the stink can linger for about 12 to 24 hours, and the massive bloom only remains visible for about three to four days before collapsing. The smell was strongest when the flower was at peak bloom last night, but you may still be able to catch a whiff if you visit today. Even if the odor has dissipated, the 6-foot, 9-inch flower will still be a sight to behold.

The US Botanic Garden (100 Maryland Ave., SW) is open everyday from 10 AM to 5 PM. No tickets are required. The corpse flower is located in the back of the garden’s “tropics” house. 

Omega Ilijevich
Editorial Fellow