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Incredibly Rare Sight (And Smell): Corpse Flower Blooms In Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes

Image shows a rare corpse flower in bloom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at Mitchell Park Domes.

The corpse flower, also called a voodoo flower, is a native rainforest plant of Western Sumatra, Indonesia. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists it as “endangered” on the Red List of Threatened Plants, which makes it very rare. The United States Botanic Garden reports fewer than 1,000 individual plants remain in their native environment. The corpse flower will only bloom once every seven to ten years. Colorado State University recorded a time-lapse video of the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Conservatory plant named “Cosmo” blooming.

A celebration was underway at Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when their flower, “U’Reeka,” bloomed recently. A corpse flower bloom usually only lasts 24 to 48 hours. Normally closed on Tuesday, the Domes opened with extended hours to let people view and smell the rare bloom.

The corpse flower bloom has a rotten smell, meant to attract insects that feed on dead animals. These insects, including dung beetles and other carnivorous insects, are necessary for natural pollination. When open, the bloom is a rich, red, meaty color, adding to the attraction for bugs. When cultivated in botanical gardens, the atmosphere mimics their native environment.

Image shows a rare corpse flower in bloom at Colorado State University.
Image from YouTube.

Unlike the century plant, which blooms once and then dies, the corpse flower will bloom repeatedly every seven to ten years over its 30- to 40-year lifespan. Individual plants can grow as tall as 10 to 15 feet, and leaves can be as wide as 13 feet. Because of the unpredictable bloom cycle, horticulturists watch corpse flowers on closed-circuit TV (CCTV) feeds. Public gardens often extend their hours during blooms to allow people to see and smell the unique flowers.

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