A unique Amorphophallus titanum is set to bloom at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Commonly known as titan arum or the “corpse flower,” it is a large, fast-growing plant in the Aroid family.

Few of these plants exist in cultivation, and they bloom only rarely and under just the right conditions. Of the plants in cultivation, less than 160 flowerings have been documented in the world in nearly 120 years.

On the extremely infrequent occasion that a titan arum comes into flower, the intense, foul odor, emitted from a tall spike of small crowded flowers, lasts just a few days.

The Missouri Botanical Garden boasts one of the world’s largest aroid collections. There are eight corpse flower specimens in the Garden’s collection.

Of those, two bloomed in 2012 and visitors had an opportunity to watch as horticulture staff manually pollinated one specimen. This year, pollen is being delivered from outside of Missouri to attempt another manual pollination.

Every year or two, the plant sends up one long, rolled-up leaf that unfurls its umbrella-like blade during a period of about three weeks. The leaf typically lives for approximately one year before the plant goes into a dormant period that lasts from a few months to a year.

The inflorescence, a giant flowering structure, opens quickly; often in just a couple of hours. It maintains its full form for about three to five days, with peak bloom (and the awful odor) lasting about 24 hours.