CORPSE FLOWER
22/05/2021

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Context:

  • Over a thousand people queued up outside an abandoned gas station in San Francisco’s Bay Area this week to catch a glimpse of the extremely rare and aptly named ‘corpse flower’.

About:

  • The ‘corpse flower’ is a flowering plant, which is native to the rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia. The scientific name of the rare plant, Amorphophallus titanum, quite literally translates to giant, misshapen phallus — presumably due to its appearance.
  • In about a decade, the ‘corpse flower’ can grow to be up to 10 feet tall and unveil two of its key components — a deep red skirt-like petal known as the spathe and a yellow rod-like ‘spadix’.
  • Another crucial component of the plant is the ‘corm’, a fleshy underground plant stem which acts as a storage organ where the corpse plant’s energy is stored. The unique plant is said to have the biggest corm in existence, sometimes weighing around 100 kgs.
  • The corpse flower is known to be one of the world’s largest ‘unbranched inflorescence’ or a stalk bearing a cluster of flowers. The average corpse flower has a lifespan of about three-four decades.

What is behind the corpse flower’s putrid stench?

  • Apart from its appearance, the flower is known for its pungent stench, which is said to be like rotting meat or a decaying cadaver. The plant emits the distinct smell only when it is in bloom, which happens once every 10 years or so and only for a brief period.
  • The main odorant which gave the flower its distinct smell was dimethyl trisulfide, the same compound that is emitted from cancerous wounds, microorganisms, and some vegetables.

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