Grand Rapids' 'corpse flower' blooms for 1st time

Blake Alsup
The Detroit News
The Corpse Flower in bloom at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.

People are flocking to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids to witness the blooming of a rare flower with a smell so horrendous, it's earned the name "Putricia."

The Amorphophallus titanum, commonly known as the “corpse flower," began blooming Wednesday around 5 p.m. Park officials said Thursday "will be the peak day to see and smell the plant."

It was planted in 2000 as a seedling, and this is the first time it has bloomed in 18 years.

Steve LaWarre, Director of Horticulture at the park, estimates thousands of people visited Thursday, with the line to see the plant stretching through the building and out the front door. Some people traveled hours to see it, LaWarre said in a phone interview.

"It's 100 percent nature," LaWarre said. "All we've done is we've watered it, fertilized it and given it the right conditions. Then nature does its thing, so it's just pretty extraordinary."

He said "a number of people" have come from Detroit and some have come from as far away as Traverse City and Indiana.

Meijer Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for visitors who want to see the corpse flower in person.

During a Facebook Live stream by the park on Wednesday night, LaWarre said the smell is a "combination of everything between dirty gym socks and a rotten carcass on the side of the road to maybe a little bit of body odor."

"Even though it smells terrible, it's going to smell a lot worse," LaWarre said in the video. "Anytime a plant goes through this much effort to smell this bad, I have to take a minute and smell it."

Anyone who wants to catch a glimpse (or a whiff) of the rare bloom will need to hurry up. The corpse flower is expected to wilt after just 24 to 36 hours. LaWarre said that means it will probably only last until Friday.

But fans who miss out won't have to wait another 18 years to see it, most likely. Now that the plant is large enough, it is expected to re-bloom in 3 to 5 years, LaWarre said.