Gigantic “corpse flower” blooms at University of Colorado after 8 years: thousands flock to smell it

The CSU corpse flower blooms for the first time in eight years, attracting thousands of visitors curious about its unique scent.

It took eight years for the corpse flower at Colorado State University to bloom, but the wait was definitely worth it.

Over 8,600 people visited the CSU campus over the Memorial Day weekend to see and smell Cosmo, a corpse flower that Tammy Brenner, the manager of plant growth facilities, brought from a conference in 2016. After days of anticipation, the flower finally began to bloom on Saturday night, releasing a foul odor that visitors compared to everything from a “rotten Cheeto pie” to decaying meat.

Researchers also got involved, doing everything from taking samples to collecting seeds, and even measuring the air quality post-bloom.

A rare botanical wonder

The corpse flower is an extraordinary rarity. According to the latest census by the United States Botanic Garden, there are fewer than a thousand specimens in the wild. This plant can reach up to about 10 feet tall and takes around ten years to bloom, only to wither within a few days. Despite this, its pungent smell quickly attracts a large number of pollinating insects.

Numerous botanical gardens and universities, such as CSU, have begun cultivating corpse flowers to preserve their genetic heritage and better study how these enigmatic plants manage to thrive.

Cosmo’s origin story

Tammy Brenner received Cosmo during a plant exchange at the annual conference of the Association of Conservatory Educators and Researchers. Cosmo’s “parents,” Maudine and Woody, both come from Ohio State University and were “born” on May 24, 2013.

Cosmo has been in the CSU Plant Growth Facilities greenhouse since 2016, and this is its very first bloom. When a corpse flower blooms, it emits a pungent odor that has been likened to that of decaying meat. This smell is most intense in the first 12 hours after blooming, but can still be detected for another 24-48 hours.

Source: University of Colorado

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