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  • The United States Botanic Garden is a verdant sanctuary for congressional staffers playing hookey

  • and for plants of every variety

  • pleasantly fragrant ...

  • ... brightly colored ...

  • ... just ... weird.

  • But arguably the garden's biggest star is

  • the Amorphophallus titanum also known as the corpse flower.

  • It smells disgusting - like rotting flesh.

  • And when my editor heard that it was about to bloom for the first time in years

  • she came to me with a question

  • What in the world? ♫

  • When? Why? Where? ♫

  • Who's got the answers? ♫

  • Why would a flower smell disgusting?

  • That's a good question!


  • If you want to imagine how bad the corpse flower smells, consider the notes of its putrid perfume

  • It starts, like many flowers, with the sweet odor of benzyl alcohol

  • But then there's trimethylamine

  • isovaleric acid

  • and lots of dimethyl trisulfide

  • Gross!

  • I joined hordes of people of people who have flocked to the garden to get a whiff

  • But the corpse flower won't start stinking until it opens - maybe in a few hours, maybe in a few days

  • It's in no rush - its been preparing for this moment for six years

  • Most of the time, it looks like an unremarkable tree

  • But underground, this potato thing - the corm - is stockpiling energy for the big stink

  • Year after year after year, the leaf sprouts and dies back

  • and the corm grows bigger and bigger until its ready to put out a strange new structure

  • and then comes the moment we've all been waiting for

  • "So how would you describe this scent that we're experiencing right now?"

  • "It's sort of like an olfactory Rorschach test"

  • "I think it smells like dead rodents"

  • "A really nasty garbage can that I haven't hosed out for a while"

  • "Or like funky, rotting cabbage or something"

  • That big column in the middle actually heats up like a Glade plug-in

  • to help that odor get into the air

  • "It already lives in steam, so it has to make just a bit more to get it up and out there"

  • So back to the question: why would a flower spend so much energy to smell this bad?

  • "It wants to be pollinated just like all other flowers"

  • It all comes back to the birds and the bees!

  • Some flowers seduce pollinators with sticky sweet nectar.

  • But a lot of insects just aren't into that - they like rotting meat

  • and they're the pollinators the corpse flower is trying to attract

  • with fleshy colors and putrid aromas.

  • It's big fly trap.

  • "You see the collar, that spathe? It's rather slippery and waxy"

  • "but that smell is just too enticing and my gosh the heat - a warm stinky steamy place to go"

  • "They investigate."

  • "They drop down into the lower parts of the bucket..."

  • This is where the plant's actual flowers are -- rows and rows of them.

  • But there's no carcasses to be found, so the insects make their getaway

  • They crawl up that central column and along the way, old pollen rubs off

  • and new pollen hitches a ride

  • "Out they go! They smell the next party down the road and go to pollinate something."

  • There's another creature that the corpseflower has tricked into spreading its pollen

  • Because of its stinky charm, humans have helped it expand

  • from it's native range in Sumatra to gardens and conservatories around the world.

  • Got a question for us? Send it our way!

  • And please subscribe to our channel - we'll answer new questions every other Tuesday.

The United States Botanic Garden is a verdant sanctuary for congressional staffers playing hookey


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B2 中高級 美國腔

屍花的臭味,解釋(The Stink Of The Corpse Flower, Explained | NPR's SKUNK BEAR)

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    Anbe2623 發佈於 2021 年 10 月 05 日