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Sprout, The Huge, Smelly Corpse Flower, Is Blooming Right Now

If it’s a truly rare event, why do we feel like we’ve been hearing about it so much lately?

Sprout the titan arum, before and after it bloomed   Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Grab your camera, a clothespin for your nose, and some comfy walking shoes: There’s a brand new titan arum blooming at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Titans are extremely rare, extremely large (4.5 feet tall today and expected to grow more!), and, when they open up, extremely smelly. Because of their distinctive stench, they are commonly known as “corpse flowers.” This particular plant has received the less-threatening moniker of Sprout.

Plant enthusiasts may recall the flower fever that swept Chicago last fall, when two titan arums attempted to bloom at the CBG—attempted being the operative word. The first flower, affectionately known as Spike, “lacked the proper energy” to bloom on its own. After more than a week of circus and speculation, botanists sliced the poor plant open to harvest its pollen for future specimens. The signature stink was nowhere to be whiffed.

But, while Spike’s bloom was a bit of a bust, another one named Alice blossomed just one month later. Alice, now fruiting, remains on display next to her younger sibling Sprout. Together with an as-yet unnamed adolescent, the three make an educational diorama on the phases of corpse flower growth.

Sprout is currently on view in the subtropical greenhouse at the CBG, and via live stream. Despite the number of recent blooms in Chicago, getting to see (and smell) one of these plants in person is a rare treat. With much of their Sumatran habitat destroyed, the CBG’s collection of 13 is a unique bounty. They require a massive time commitment, taking 10 to 12 years to bloom, if they bloom at all. Since CBG acquired its collection in 2003, we just happen to be living in a golden age of Chicago corpse flowers.

What’s more, the flower’s odor only lasts a few hours after it opens. Our advice to all you scent-seekers and flower-fanatics: Keep an eye on the live stream, and be ready to bolt for Glencoe at a moment’s notice. There’s no hard estimate on when Sprout will bloom, but you can track on Twitter with #CBGSprout or sign up for email updates.

When Sprout is ready to open up, the CBG will stay open until 2:00 a.m. for viewing—peak stink happens in the wee hours of the morning—with discounted parking for non-members.

Alice the Amorphophallus, which bloomed in September, is now bearing fruit.Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune

PREVIOUSlY A Corpse Flower Blooms in Glencoe, August 2015; Surprise! A Corpse Flower Just Bloomed at the Botanic Garden, September 2015

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