Over the weekend, hundreds of visitors at UNC Charlotte’s McMillan Greenhouse witnessed the rare blooming of “Odie,” the university’s titan arum plant.
You might be thinking, “Big deal. It’s a plant.” But there’s a reason why the titan arum is often referred to as the “rock star” of the plant world.
“It’s outrageous, it’s loud, it’s a spectacle and it puts on a show for a brief period of time,” said UNC Charlotte Botanical Garden Interim Director Paula Gross. “It’s like going to a concert.”
– The plant’s scientific name is Amorphophallus titanum, which roughly translates to giant misshapen penis.
– The name Odie is short for Odoardo Beccari, the man who discovered the titan arum in 1878 in its native Sumatra.
– Odie peaked at a height of 5 feet, 4 inches.
– When the titan arum blooms, it slowly unfurls its vibrant reddish purple skirt.
– For about 12 hours, its massive horn generates heat and disperses a cocktail of chemicals with a scent typically described as “rotting flesh.” That’s why it’s also called the “corpse flower.”
– The smelly chemical compounds in titan arums are also found in rotting onions, garlic, putrid fish and sweaty socks.
– Sound sexy? Well, that’s what the plant’s stench is all about: reproduction. This smelly, evolutionary wonder attracts flies and beetles, which love to lay their eggs in animal carcasses.
— Leah Massey (@MassifiedNews) July 18, 2015
These smells typically repel humans, but Odie had people waiting in line just to catch a whiff.
The closest comparison I have for Odie’s scent is the bag of potatoes I recently forgot about for weeks in my apartment pantry, as well as hints of warm dumpster.
Here’s what other visitors thought:
Pat Merriott: “Strange. It reminds me of that movie – ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ It smells like rotting something, I don’t know what.”
John Mills: “You know … it just smells like a flower.”
Donna Norfolk: “There is a dumpster smell. It’s not bad – not as bad as it sounded. But it’s beautiful.”
Tori Bonnell: “It smells like an E. coli bacteria culture. No one’s gonna know that the heck that means.”
Wren Callahan: “I don’t even know what it smelled like”
Ian Callahan: “Should we get one at home?”
Ian: “It smells like Wren’s room when she doesn’t clean it.”
Wren: “No! It kind of smelled like a trash can.”
Jordan Snyder noon @JordySny