Home & Garden

NC State’s corpse plant finally opens, and its stink may be even worse than expected

Those able to brave the wall of stench at the N.C. State Plant Conservatory on Friday were greeted with a rare site: the corpse plant named Lupin had unfurled the skirt-like cover over its flower spike, revealing a rich maroon interior.

Lupin also released the chemicals that give corpse plants both their names and their reputations of smelling a lot like roadkill.

“When I saw it at first I thought, oh that’s a beautiful plant,” said conservatory visitor Antwan Campbell. “I wasn’t expecting it to smell that strong when I got up in front of it.

“That was truly surprising,” he said with a laugh.

Campbell described the smell as, “trash on a hot summer day that’s been out there all day long — but it’s worse than that.”

His coworker Matthew Martinez agreed, then added, “It’s like the liquid at the bottom of a dumpster.”

The plant’s owner, N.C. State horticultural sciences doctoral student Brandon Huber, was on hand to answer questions about the plant’s unusual life cycle, including its pollination by flies and carrion beetles.

The owner of Lupin the corpse flower, Brandon Huber, speaks to visitors at the NC State Plant Conservatory about how it functions on Friday, August 2, 2019. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Huber measured the temperature of the plant’s tall flower spike and told the gathered crowd it was 15 degrees higher than the surrounding air. As previously reported by The News & Observer, the heat helps spread the smell and attract its pollinators.

Although online reservations to see the plant have all been taken, Huber urged people who really want to see Lupin to come by and try their luck in case a spot opens up in the greenhouse. The smell only lasts a few days, and he predicted that by Monday the tall flower will have collapsed.

For those who want to see the corpse plant blooming but aren’t interested in the full foul-smelling experience, there’s always Lupin’s live feed.

Jennifer DeMoss is a science intern at The News & Observer through a fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Jennifer, an anthropologist with training in forest ecology and botany, is looking forward to covering the latest research in the North Carolina area.