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Plantidote of the Day 2013-01-09 Updated!

twig's picture

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Carrion flower

Thanks to Plantidote pal insanely sane, today we have something you won't see every day -- if you're lucky ;-) -- a carrion flower. Not only is the carrion flower strange looking, but it also smells. Bad. Let's not mince words, it smells disgusting. I saw one once in a botanical garden, and my first thought was "Where's the rotten meat?"

But there's a reason carrion flower is so foul smelling. That's how it attracts flies for pollination purposes. Smart! What better way to draw flies than with the smell of putrid meat.

If you are interested in growing a carrion flower, they aren't very demanding, requiring some sun and moderate water during summer. In winter, these plants need some time off, according to my sources, with less water and cooler temperatures. Insanely probably knows more about this part, so there may be more growing tips in the comments.

Thanks, insanely!! It's fun to make silly jokes about stinky flowers, but that is one heckuva remarkable plant!!

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jerztomato's picture
Submitted by jerztomato on

I had one when I lived in AZ and the flower did resemble a starfish. This looks like some sort of arisaema.

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

This stinky flower is probably in the family Amorphophallus, of which there are hundreds of species. Just the name alone spells weird! I was given a small rooted plant 15 years ago. It didn't bloom for about 4 or 5 years. Then it bloomed and soon after began to spread by underground stems ( stolon) so now I have about a dozen of these horrid stinky plants in one corner of the garden. Some of these Carrion flowers can reach 8 feet tall. Thank the heavens mine is not one that does. Mine grows to about 18 inches tall. Flowers last about a week and smell worse by the day.
Even the dog avoids that part of the yard when in bloom!!

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

This plant would not be a good choice for indoors! The odor is really awful and persistent.
You would have to move out when it came into bloom.

My plant grows in full sun with regular weekly water. Here in N Calif. the winters are cold and wet and the Carrion flower is dormant then. It will emerge from the ground in late spring and bloom in summer. Then it goes dormant, but I suspect it is spreading underground while it is out of sight.

That's a good strategy, since if I could tell where it was spreading to, I would dig it up or rip it out! Very crafty plant!

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

That takes me back. A friend of mine in Hawaii was growing one of these things on his deck until his landlady asked what died. (Yeah, We botanists are weird.) So then he sort-of-hid it down by the garbage cans until he felt bad when he saw her scrubbing out all the cans. (Then he took it in to the greenhouses at school.)

That's an Amorphophallus or possibly a related genus in the Araceae. (Possibly Arisaema, although it doesn't look right to me for that.) Stapelia is also stinky and fly-pollinated, but it's in the milkweed family and looks different.

jerztomato's picture
Submitted by jerztomato on

I didn't realize they were related. I had an arisaema by my front door, but it died, I'm assuming the bulb (corm?) rotted because this flowerbed gets waterlogged in the winter. That doesn't seem to bother the other plants there (arum italicum, aspidistra,mondo grass and asst. ferns)

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

Don't give up on that Arisaema root/bulb. I have had same plant disappear for a couple years and then turn up fat and happy one spring. I think they can hover below ground gaining steam before they shoot up. My Carrion flower did that. I forgot I had planted it cause it disappeared for over a year.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

I did not realize there were different kinds of smelly flowers and went with the first genus that popped up. Sorry about that, but you're probably used to it by now.

To make up for it, here's a link to the Cal State University at Fullerton Arboretum, where a related plant ("Tiffany, the Titan Arum") was on display. Scroll down to the photos from 2000 -- spectacular!!