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‘Wally’ the corpse flower preparing to bloom in Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana University in Bloomington is one of three universities in the country that has an Amorphophallus titanum, more commonly known as a corpse flower.

As its name says, when in full bloom, it smells like a dead body.

“That or a bad locker room,” John Leichter, assistant manager for the IU Biology Greenhouse, said. “The first time it bloomed in 2016, a lot of people were gagging, so it’s very it’s very strong.”

The plant owned by IU Bloomington is nicknamed Wally, and was donated to the greenhouse in 2007.

Corpse plants were first discovered in the 1870s in Southeast Asia. They’ve become almost extinct over the years due to the destruction of rainforests. As of 2023, only about 1,000 are growing in the wild.

Leichter says that corpse plants aren’t day bloomers, because the insects that like the smell of death come out at night.

“The reason it blooms at night is it gets the beetles and bugs that like death, because it smells like a dead corpse, so they come and get into the flowers (and pollinate them),” said Leichter.

Wally’s leaves were starting to bloom late Tuesday evening. The bloom lasts a few days, but the foul smell only lasts a few hours.

“During the morning, the next day you won’t smell it. It’s a 24-hour period that this all happens at then the flower starts to collapse back into itself,” Leichter said.

During the 2020 bloom, people weren’t allowed into the greenhouse because of COVID protocols, but nearly 5,000 people saw Wally’s previous bloom in 2016.

“They don’t realize until they come down here how big it is, they’re like ‘Oh wow!’ They can’t imagine from a photograph you come in here and you’re like that’s huge,” Leichter added.

The greenhouse will be open at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday so people can see Wally in all of its glory.