Rare double bloom of corpse flowers draws crowds to Chicago Botanic Garden

A rare double dose of putrid is drawing visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe this week.

Not one, but two rare corpse flowers are blooming in the same week. 

"This is something I’ve only ever seen growing in documentary footage," said one incredulous visitor. "Yeah, it feels like a movie prop."

Fans of felonious fumes are flocking to the Plant Science Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden for a rare double helping of the world’s most noxious plant.

The corpse flower named "Sumatra" began blooming on Friday, and an even bigger corpse flower, more than seven feet tall named "Spike" is set to bloom later this week.

"The Titan Arum is the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence," said Chicago Botanic Garden Horticulturist Johanna Hutchins. "So as you can see, the flower itself is just massive, it’s very tall."

Scientifically named Amorphophallus Titanum, these monsters from Sumatra take over 10 years to flower. And when they do, it’s memorable, releasing a horrific scent designed to attract pollinating insects that feast on rotting flesh and vegetation. 

"All of them have kind of slightly different smells," said Hutchins. "None of them are pleasant. Sometimes they smell like rotten vegetables, like stinky, rotten fish, like decaying animals."

Visitors ogling the two giant plants discerned different smells.

"It smells awful. It smells like rubber or something," said one man. 

A young girl visiting with her grandparents said it smells "like dead people."

The smell is most offensive within 24 to 36 hours after the flower opens, which means while Sumatra is winding down, Spike is about to unleash his full foulness. 

"So as soon as you hear word that it’s starting to open, if you want the full experience, that’s when you should come out," said Hutchins.

And if you want to know when Spike blooms later this week, the Botanic Garden has a WebCam trained on Spike for the blessed event. 

"I’m probably going to try to come back for day one of that one," said one visitor.

The Botanic Garden has 18 of the strange creatures, which bloom randomly every few years. When they do, horticulturalists cut a square window in the plant to collect the pollen, which is banked and traded with other institutions to keep the corpse flower from going belly up.