Corpse flower blooms at Ole Miss, causes a stink

Corpse flowers bloom every 7-10 years. (Source: Daily Mississippian/Christian Johnson)
Corpse flowers bloom every 7-10 years. (Source: Daily Mississippian/Christian Johnson)

OXFORD, MS (WMC) - On Saturday morning, Ole Miss' third corpse flower bloomed in the Thad Cochran Research Center.

The six-foot-tall plant, Amorphophallus titanum (titan arum), is known as the corpse flower because of its unique smell.  It is said to smell like rotting flesh. It smells that way in order to attract flies that help pollinate the flower.

The corpse flower is one of the largest unbranched flowering plants in the world and blooms once every 7-10 years.

The bloom is over, which means the smell that gives its name is completely gone. But for the researchers at Ole Miss, now the work begins.

Commonly found in Indonesia and Malaysia, this plant is extremely rare in the United States.

Only a handful of cities have one, and Oxford is one of them.

Memphis also has its very own corpse flower. The flower is at Memphis Botanic Garden, but visitors who want to take a whiff of the smelly plant have to wait several more years.

"In the wild, they are growing in plenty in the hot warm, tropical climates, and they reach the height of sometimes 10, 20 feet in height," said Lal Jayaratna, a botanist at University of Mississippi.

The Corpse Plant only blooms once every 7 to 10 years. Over the weekend, this plant finally bloomed, bringing in crowds to see it! The process only lasts for around 24 hours.

During bloom, the corpse plant releases a strong, unpleasant odor, which is where it gets its name.

"It smells like rotting meat or something," Jayaratna said. "That's why it's called corpse flower. Some people like that smell but most people they don't like it, when they come to see it, everybody comes with closed nose and all that."

"The smell is to attract the bugs for pollination," said Dr. Ikhlas Khan, director of National Center for Natural Products Research.

It's that odor as well as the pollen of the corpse plant that researchers at the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy are studying to see if this plant known for a smell of death, can help medically save or improve lives.

"We are trying to see," Dr. Khan said. "I mean it's not really used as a medicinal plant, but we are investigating if there's anything there that can be use chemically."

With three total corpse plants at the School of Pharmacy, the research is far from over, although the bloom for this particular plant is.

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