The smell of the living dead

Even though its been four years (FOUR YEARS!) since I have left my friends at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh to move across the state, I have to admit, I still miss the gardens and all the craziness that goes along with them.

And this past week made me terribly jealous because it was the bloom of Romero*, Phipps’s very own Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum). One part phallus and all stink, this flower is native to the Sumatran rainforest and uses the putrid stench it gives off to attract it’s particular pollanators: carrion beetles! And that spadix! We are talking about flower that can reach 10 feet in length and most of that is a HUGE phallic spadix that swells, stands erect, and 24-48 hours later, wilts until it eventually tips and collapses under its own weight (whether or not it managed to attract a pollinator).

Just think about that  for a moment and take a look:

Phipps’s Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

Phipps was open late (till 2 am) for two nights to accommodate the influx of visitors for the time sensitive event. Plus there were zombie themed cocktails to sip on while waiting in line and two separate screenings of the human Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to get the crowd in the mood. It only blooms once every ten years on average, so this flower was a Big Deal.¬† And I am pleased to hear that Pittsburgh stepped up! I am always excited when the public gets pumped up for a plant or botany based event, and Phipps had over 10,000 visitors within 24 hours. THAT IS AMAZING YOU GUYS! I’m sorry, what I mean to say is “That is amazing, yinz guys.” Romero is Pittsburgh’s flower, after all.

* Why is it named Romero you ask? Because Phipps in Pittsburgh! And if something is known for its vile stench of rotting flesh then who better to honor with that smell than the king of the modern zombie cannon, Pittsburgh’s own George Romero? He even came to visit his namesake right before the bloom began.

Phipps horticulturist Ben Dunigan (left) and ‘Night of the Living Dead’ writer George Romero (right)

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