Why does the stink plant stink?


More Malodorous Plants and Carrion Flowers

We've already explored how the Titan Arum uses its noxious perfume to help with pollination, but the plant doesn't stop there. Botanists also theorize that the plant's fleshy pink color and unusually warm temperature (about the same as the human body) help complete the illusion that the plant is a giant hunk of decaying meat for insects to lay their eggs in. In addition, the plant uses its height and warmth (following the famous equation "bad smell + hot car = extra bad smell") to help spread waves of stench far and wide. In fact, insects can detect Titan Arum's scent up to a half mile away [source: UNC Charlotte].

Titan Arum isn't the only plant with an eye-watering stink, which may be why it works so hard to stand out from its malodorous brethren. Plants that reek of dead animals fittingly fall under the category of carrion flowers. Not only do carrion flowers smell like rotting meat, they also tend to look the part. For instance, the Stapelia asterias flower is coated with fine hairs that make the flower resemble moldy meat. Rafflesia arnoldi, the world's largest flower, is another fleshy carrion flower located in the forests of Sumatra.

As beautiful as many carrion flowers are, you'll never find one in a bouquet at your local florist. Not only do carrion flowers reek, many are also very rare and hard to grow. Still, none of these flowers seem to have the ability to turn stomachs like the Titan Arum, and the corpse flower wouldn't have it any other way.

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Sources

  • Armstrong, Wayne. "Not All Flowers Smell As Sweet As A Rose." Palomar College. 1997. (5/8/2009)http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ww0602.htm
  • Eastern Illinois University. "Amorphophallus titanum." (5/9/2009)http://www.eiu.edu/~biology/news/titan_arum.htm
  • Fuller, Thomas. "Fans Sour on Sweeter Version of Asia's Smelliest Fruit."
  • New York Times. April 8, 2007. (5/8/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/world/asia/08durian.html?fta=y
  • Pickrell, John. "Researchers Uncover Secrets of Giant 'Corpse Flower.'" National Geographic. July 18, 2006. (5/8/2009)http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/07/0718_030718_stinkyflower.html
  • Schultz, Nora. "Giant stinking flower reveals a hot secret." New Scientist. Dec. 22, 2008. (5/8/2009)http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16316-giant-stinking-flower-reveals-a-hot-secret.html
  • Tebbitt, Mark. "Blooming of Amorphophallus titanum (corpse flower) at BBG." August 2006. (5/8/2009)http://www.bbg.org/vis2/2006/titan/info/history.html
  • UNC Charlotte. "Bella, The Titan Arum." (5/9/2009)http://gardens.uncc.edu/plant-garden-info/titan-arum.html
  • Wilson, Elizabeth K. "A Fantastic Stink." Chemical and Engineering News. June 30, 2009. (5/8/2009)http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/8126/8126giantplant.html

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