Rare Corpse Flower attracts visitors to Land O' Lakes
When Land O’ Lakes Chamber of Commerce Director Stefan Anderson walked into work last week, he was greeted with an unpleasant smell.
“I opened the atrium door, and I was sure that a mouse had died in the wall somewhere,” he said.
Anderson didn’t find any dead mice, but the giant purple flower he was watching for a local lodge owner was in full bloom.
“I thought it was just a bad joke that Dick was playing on me,” he said. “There’s smelled and then there’s smelled!”
The Corpse Flower is a rare plant from the rainforests of Indonesia that blooms for exactly one week of the year.
But when it does bloom, it smells like rotting flesh.
Dick Mendham is the owner of Sunrise Lodge and seven of these flowers. He lent the Chamber of Commerce one of his flowers in an effort to spread the stench.
“When it starts to bloom, especially at first, it smells terrible,” Mendham says. “That’s where it gets its name.”
Mendham says the flower has two separate life cycles.
In the summer, he plants the bulb outside where the roots spread out horizontally and a large leaf soaks up sunlight.
Then, when the ground freezes, he brings the bulb inside where it sits in darkness until January 1.
That’s when it starts to sprout again — without soil or water.
“At first it grows an inch or two a day, and then in about the middle of January, it starts growing fast, maybe four, six and sometimes seven inches a day,” Mendham says.
In two weeks, the flower is about 8 feet tall. It blooms at that height for exactly one week before it wilts and starts to deteriorate.
There are only about 1,000 of these plants left in the wild, according to the U.S. botanic garden.
People in big cities across the world will wait in line for hours to witness the flower’s short-lived bloom.
But at Sunrise Lodge, the flowers aren’t quite as popular.
“They’re very pretty for the first three days,” Mendham says. “But after that, we have to get them out of there. We can’t have them in the dining room.”
The flowers just finished blooming for the year, but they could be back for public viewing next year, at the Land O’ Lakes Chamber of Commerce.