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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Springtime sunshine and a seasonal stench: Manito Park’s rare corpse flower is in stinky bloom

Charlie and Karen Justus, of Othello, Wash., take pause to view and smell the blooming corpse flower, far left, during a visit to the Gaiser Conservatory on Tuesday in Manito Park.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Under the spring sun inside the Gaiser Conservatory, Pam Smith held her nose.

“You smell that corpse flower?” Smith said to her 9-year-old daughter, Charlotte.

The rare flower is in bloom this week, emanating a foul smell throughout the greenhouse in Manito Park. Manito’s corpse flower has large purple leaves surrounding a tall purple spike, known as a spadix.

Corpse flowers are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are fewer than 1,000 remaining in the wild. The number of corpse flowers in the wild has declined by more than 50% in the past 150 years, the group estimates.

The flower, known scientifically as amorphophallus titanum, frequently grows up to 8 feet tall and has a strong odor, often compared to rotting flesh. The smell is most potent during peak bloom at night or early in the morning, according to the United States Botanic Garden.

The plant naturally appears in the rainforests of Sumatra, where it has grown up to 12 feet tall.

The corpse flower is just one of hundreds of unusual flowers at Gaiser Conservatory, named for longtime Park Board member Dr. David Gaiser. The conservatory houses showy tropical, sub-tropical and temperate plants from across the globe, with displays that rotate seasonally.

Tulips and orchids are now in bloom, surrounded by an army of cacti. Leaves flutter down from hanging plants and water runs in small fountains.

For the Smiths, the corpse flower and its potent smell was just a fun addition to their eagerly awaited greenhouse visit.

Charlotte Smith had been waiting for a trip to the conservatory all winter.

The pair was alerted to the blooming flower by fellow patrons when they walked in the door.

“It was like a weird smell,” Charlotte said.

Pam Smith had heard of corpse flowers before but had never seen one in person.

“I didn’t know we had one here,” she said.

The smelly surprise was a highlight of the afternoon visit, along with Charlotte’s favorite, tulips.