Hundreds traveled to the Mitchell Park Domes to smell the Corpse Flower, which smells like rotten flesh

Posted at 1:28 PM, May 29, 2024

MILWAUKEE — People from all over Wisconsin rushed to the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee to get a whiff of a flower that got its name for smelling like a rotten flesh.

The infamous corpse flower bloomed Monday evening which prompted hundreds of people to go to The Domes Tuesday to experience a smell that even the Grinch would describe as stink, stank, stunk.

“It smells like old garbage. It smells like eggs," Bentley Brown, who saw that the flower had bloomed on social media and wanted to smell it, said.

Corpse Flower

The stench of the corpse flower only lasts about 24-48 hours after it blooms.

“It is supposed to smell like rotting flesh that is the goal of the corpse flower, and it smells that way to attract its pollinators which are carrion flies and beetles," Amanda Garchow, the tropical horticulturist at the Mitchell Park Domes, said.

However, that smell doesn't remain consistent for that entire time. The smell is strongest when the flower first blooms. Not everyone who made their way down to The Domes smelled that smelly smell that smells smelly.

“I guess what I smelled was more like musty kind of old. I know they say it’s supposed to smell like a corpse, but I don't really know what a corpse smells like so I’m not sure," Peggy Breister, who came from Fond du Lac, said.

Watch the video to see people's reactions to the corpse flower...

Hundreds traveled to the Mitchell Park Domes to smell the rare Corpse Flower

For others, it was like the flower wasn't even there.

“I honestly didn't smell anything," Rena Lynn said.

This is a rare occurrence. An individual corpse flower only blooms once every 8 to 10 years. For the corpse flower enthusiasts in the area, they may recognize that there have been three blooms in the past four years. So how is that possible then?

“We actually have a collection of about eight, and we keep them all in the back in the greenhouses until they produce a flower such as this and then we'll bring them out for display when that happens," Garchow said.

While they can monitor the plant's status, it's difficult to predict when they will bloom. Garchow measured the plant daily for the past month to monitor its growth and potential blooming timeline.

"But it's still hard to know. It's really hard to tell. Sometimes they'll skip a year. Sometimes they'll be a little early," she said.

Corpse Flower
An individual corpse flower only blooms once every 8-10 years. The Mitchell Park Domes has eight individual corpse flowers.

This corpse flower bloomed with its putrid smell Monday around 4 pm. About 24 hours later, the stench wasn’t as strong which is why some caught a whiff and others didn’t.

“I always seem to arrive a little late for that heinous smell of death that they claim it smells like. I get a hint of something but I’m not sure if it’s the tropical dome or not," Liza Wallner who has tried smelling a corpse flower before, said.

The amorphophallus titanium, better known as the corpse flower, is an endangered flower due to habitat loss. There are fewer than 1,000 remaining in the wild, according to the United States Botanic Garden. They only grow in Sumatra, an island in Indonesia, and in horticulture centers.

The smell of this flower may linger into Wednesday. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until one of the other seven corpse flowers bloom.