"It's something people don't see everyday," Shaw said.
As the name implies, the bloom gives off a deathly stench for the first couple of days after opening, Shaw said. The bloom in the conservatory atrium has been open for a few days, so people now have to stick their noses in the flower to get the full power of its odor.
In the wild, the plants are pollinated by flies, and the flowers' foul odor attracts those bugs, he said. But the plants will flower without pollination, so the conservatory doesn't have to pollinate its corpse flowers manually.
The plant's annual growth cycle is somewhat similar to bulb plants such as canna lilies, Shaw said. The corpse flower bulb, or corm, which is about the size of a small, round loaf of bread, must go through winter dormancy, so the conservatory has to dig them up and store them in cool, dry conditions.
In late winter, the flower stalk begins to push up from the corm, he said. The single, large flower lasts about two weeks. After the flower dies back, the plant will send up a single leaf, which actually looks like a stalk with multiple leaves.
Both of the conservatory's corpse flower corms had belonged to a local woman whose family donated them to the conservatory after her death, Shaw said.
The conservatory also has a young version of the larger and more unusual type of corpse flower, the titan arum, which produces a larger flower but which typically goes years between blooms, he said. That plant currently is being grown off-exhibit because it is so sensitive about its care.
Check it out
WHAT: One of Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory's corpse flowers is blooming now, and another should bloom in 10 days to two weeks. The plant's single flower gives off a powerful odor when it first opens.
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, except open until 8 p.m. Thursdays; and noon-4 p.m. Sundays
WHERE: Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St.
COST: $5, adults; $3, ages 3-17; and free, ages 2 and younger. People can see the corpse flower in the conservatory atrium for free.
INFORMATION: 427-6440 or http://www.botanicalconservatory.org