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Cincinnati Zoo's corpse flower is almost ready to bloom and, well, stink

"Morticia," as it's known, lives in the Zoo's education building.
Bill Rinehart
"Morticia," as it's known, lives in the Zoo's education building.

A flower at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is drawing a lot of attention. It's a titan arum and is known for a few things: it's rare, it's large, it only blooms every few years, and it stinks.

Horticulturalist Ed Atkinson says it's more commonly known as the corpse flower. “The titan arum is pollinated by carrion beetles and flies," he says. "In order to attract them, she does her best corpse impression, which involves sending out a cocktail of chemicals you would find in garlic, sweaty feet, limburger cheese...”

Atkinson says the odor is intense, but not long lived.

“It’s a very short window. It’s at max about 24 hours. It kinda ramps up the later we get in the day, through the night, because a lot of its pollinators are nocturnal,” he says. “So the full smell will be very early in the morning on the next day.”

Atkinson says the stench draws pollinators looking for a meal — and people because of morbid curiosity. “We all just wanna see how bad it really is and be able to explain it in our own words.”

This particular plant, nicknamed Morticia, came from the Chicago Botanical Gardens three years ago. It's located in the Zoo's Education Building.

Atkinson says the corpse flower is native only to Sumatra, Indonesia. He says there aren't many in the wild, and not many in collections.

“We do a lot of great conservation work with animals, and it’s just great to have something that really highlights there’s a lot of beautiful and interesting plants that need our help, too,” he says.

The Zoo will announce Morticia's blooming on social media.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.