‘Mouldy cheese. Sweat. Poo’: Corpse flower, the world’s smelliest plant, blooms for first time at Toronto Zoo

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TORONTO — History, depending on one’s palate, either smelled like feces, a decayed carcass or old food left to calcify in a teenage boy’s gym bag at Canada’s largest zoo on Friday as visitors lined up to hail the blooming of the Amorphophallus titanum, a plant native to Indonesia renowned for its viscerally unpleasant odour.

The plant, which is also known as the corpse flower, had only bloomed in Canada on four occasions prior to this week, and never before at the Toronto Zoo, the site of this latest milestone.

Clothespins sat on offer in a wicker basket at the entrance to the exhibit on Friday morning for any spectator who wanted to plug their nostrils before treading any farther. Most people walked on without protection, though, preferring to take in what Paul Gellatly, the zoo’s curatorial gardener, says is the single worst smell in the plant world — and one of that world’s rarest sights.

“This is like a horticultural Christmas for me. The pinnacle of the horticultural career is this flower,” Gellatly said. “Every time one of these blooms, it is a major event, and people line up for hours just to get a glimpse.”

The ranks of the spectators who paid $12 a pop to see the special exhibit starting Thursday evening, shortly after the corpse flower began to bloom, included “plant geeks” who had travelled from as far as London, Ont., and Ottawa, Gellatly said. He had heard that people were driving from the United States to see the flower on Friday, though the limited window in which it emits its smell — no more than 36 hours from the time it opens, and sometimes much less than that — made it possible they would arrive disappointed.

The most frequent rate at which a corpse flower blooms is once a decade, and the zoo didn’t expect this particular flower to flourish for another four years at the earliest. Only 200 or so have ever bloomed in collections around the world, Gellatly said. Still, this process is remarkable for more than its rarity, a realization that hit zoo-goers on Friday as soon as they got within sniffing distance of the plant.

“It smells disgusting,” said Oliver Booth, 10, who drove to the zoo with his mother from Cookstown, about 90 minutes north of Toronto. From a certain angle, he specified, the flower’s scent reminded him of a “dirty gym bag — something like …read more

Source:: Nationalpost

      

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