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A gigantic titan arum flower has bloomed at the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC, drawing crowds to view it in all its stinky glory.
Forget political shenanigans: the stinkiest thing in Washington DC right now is an enormous titan arum "corpse flower," which is blooming in all its rotten glory at the US Botanic Garden.
The mighty Amorphophallus titanum hasn't bloomed since July 2007, making its 2013 appearance an unusual event that is drawing many botantically-interested spectators — who are OK with holding their noses.
If you're near Washington DC and want to see the titan arum, you'd better move quickly: it will only bloom for 24 to 48 hours and then will collapse quickly. As the plant has a very irregular blooming cycle, no one can say for sure when the natural spectacle will take place again.
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The enormous flower is native to the jungles of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the doubtless surprised Italian natural scientist Odoardo Beccari came across it in 1878, eventually sending seeds to Kew Gardens in England, where the plant bloomed for the first time before a deeply bemused public.
The titan arum has the biggest unbranched inflorescence in the world, a scientific way of describing a cluster of smaller flowers that comes together to form one exceedingly big flower.
Why does it smell so wretched? Human beings simply lack the nuanced appreciation for the scent of rotting dead things that many useful pollinating insects share. The pungent smell attracts the insects from miles away to the blooming plant, helping the titan arum to reproduce.
Due to its enormous size and inherent weirdness, the titan arum can now be found in the collections of botantical gardens and private plant-lovers around the world. That's pretty popular for an enormous plant that smells remarkably like a decaying corpse.
There's a webcam where you can observe the corpse flower doing...well, whatever it does, which is probably not much. Sadly, there is no way to replicate the smell over the Internet Yet.
Here's a video of the last titan arum bloom, back in July 2007.