Houston & Peach

Her yard smells like rotting meat. That's cause for this woman to celebrate

Unusual, stinky flower blooming in Bonaire

A Bonaire, Ga., woman has an unusual, smelly flower often referred to as a "corpse flower" because it smells like rotting meat.
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A Bonaire, Ga., woman has an unusual, smelly flower often referred to as a "corpse flower" because it smells like rotting meat.

Something in Elaine Moncrief's yard smells like a dead animal, and she couldn't be happier about it.

She hadn't given much thought to the plant that has been growing next to her house for four years until Monday, when it started looking different.

Her aunt gave it to her in a pot. Moncrief set the pot in her yard and thought it had died. Later, she tossed the pot's contents into a nook between two walls at the front of her house. Later, she noticed a plant growing there, right next to a corner of the house.

She decided to leave it alone, and each year it has popped up a branching plant before dying back in the winter.

Then Monday, everything changed.

It had grown out of the ground as a stalk, as it does each year, but this time it was beginning to look different. By Tuesday it was opening as a flower. Now Moncrief's interest was piqued.

She remembered only that her aunt called it a "stinky plant," and starting with that she soon found from Internet research that it is a plant commonly called a "corpse flower." That's because it smells like rotting meat, and there's a reason for that.

Unlike other flowers, it isn't pollinated by bees but by beetles and flies. It creates the rotting flesh smell, as well as the appearance of meat, in order to attract pollinators and ensure the survival of the species. It only blooms every few years.

As of Wednesday it had opened all the way up and was smelling like its name — right next to where she likes to sit on the front porch and have some sweet tea. It also was beginning to draw flies and stink bugs.

And Moncrief, a longtime kindergarten paraprofessional, was excited.

"I love it," she said as she showed it Wednesday. "I’ve been talking about it to my co-workers and students at school. I just like that it’s so unusual."

William Khoury, a horticulturalist at Massee Lane Gardens near Fort Valley, said the gardens have a few corpse flower plants of two different species. He wasn't aware of any others in Middle Georgia.

The largest species, called the titan arum, can reach more than 10 feet tall and is extremely rare, he said. Massee Lane has two smaller species, the amorphophallus konjac and the amorphophallus bulbifer, both of which are also called a voodoo lily.

After looking at pictures of Moncrief's plant, he identified it as an amorphophalus konjac. Although the term "corpse flower" often refers to the titan, which can draw hordes of visitors when in bloom, Khoury said it also applies to the other species as well, including Moncrief's plant.

None of Massee Lane's corpse flowers is blooming yet this year, he said. But when one is blooming, people come just to see it.

"They are just weird," he said. "They are just unusual, and that’s what drives people to want to see them."