A cool, wet end to Seattle’s summer is helping to extend a special — and stinking — experience at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Dougsley, the 12-year-old corpse flower on loan from the University of Washington Biology Department is in bloom but the act is playing out over days, not hours thanks to the mild weather at the top of Capitol Hill. The result is more time for visitors to be part of the rare botanical experience and to enjoy the corpse flower’s unique stench combining notes of rotten fish, filthy gym socks, and sewer gas.
The Amorphophallus titanum are special plants because they take around 10 years to form their first bloom and because they release a foul, decaying flesh-like stench when they do. The last corpse flower hype at the Volunteer Park Conservatory came in the summer of 2014 — that bloom hit in mid-September. This plant is named honors former greenhouse manager Doug Ewing and comes as part of a seeming wave of corpse blooms across the county this year — probably due to a trend of successful blooms, collection of viable seeds, and increased knowledge about the especially stinky plant.
You’ll find Dougsley in the Conservatory’s Seasonal House, available for viewing daily between 10 AM and 4 PM. Admission during this special event is free. Learn more at volunteerparkconservatory.org or follow along on Twitter:
smells like death in here
— Dougsley C. Flower (@dougsley) September 2, 2016
UPDATE 9/6/2016: Dougsley did not complete his bloom:
After several days of intense anticipation, Dougsley the Corpse Flower has apparently stopped blooming and is starting to decompose. Unfortunately the bloom never fully opened leaving many confused visitors to wonder where was the stench!
“Dougsley appears to have been a dud, and has been removed from the building,” the Conservatory’s terse update concludes.
Senior gardener David Helgeson provided a few possible explanations for the plant falling short of expectations:
- The change to cooler temperatures were a shock to the plant, and it halted the bloom
- At 12-years-old, Dougsley was a young specimen, and it is possible that it simply hadn’t stored enough energy from the sun throughout its vegetative cycles to sustain a complete bloom.
- There are genetic variables present among all plants which can lead to unsuccessful completion of bloom cycles which are difficult to predict.
The UW Biology Department will continue to study Dougsley, the Conservatory update says.