Corpse Flower Has Stinky Company

The corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) is perhaps the most infamous of smelly blooms, but it is far from the only one. The Missouri Botanical Garden is home to several pungent plants, some of which you could even plant in your own backyard.

Devil’s Tongue

A close relative of the corpse flower, Amorphophallus konjac can be found in the Samuels Bulb Garden. Devil’s tongue typically blooms in early May, accompanied by a distinct odor of rotting flesh used to attract pollinators. The smell can last several days before the flower wilts. By late June, the plant reemerges as a leaf that resembles a small tree. It is considered hardy in St. Louis, meaning you can grow your own and enjoy the stink year after year.

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Devil’s Tongue in the Samuels Bulb Garden. Photo by Wesley Schaefer

Voodoo Lily

The Garden has two plants that share the common name voodoo lily. Amorphophallus bulbifer, another cousin of the corpse flower, grows in the Climatron. The light pink bloom looks similar to a peace lily, and the accompanying smell lasts just a few hours. Outside in the Heckman Bulb Garden you’ll find Sauromatum venosum, another plant in the aroid family. This voodoo lily blooms in early May with a rotten scent that lingers for a few days. Like the devil’s tongue, it is considered hardy enough to survive outdoors in St. Louis.

Voodoo Lily
Flies enjoy the smell of the Voodoo Lily in the Heckman Bulb Garden. Photo by Cassidy Moody


Dragon Arum

Another perennially putrid plant is Dracunculus vulgaris. The dragon arum gets its name from the shape of its leaves, which resemble the claw of a dragon. In June, a maroon-purple spathe opens to reveal a nearly black tail-like spike known as a spadix. You can find this plant at the entrance to the English Woodland Garden, as well as the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, and near the Temperate House. As for the smell, the Garden’s own Plant Finder resource offers this advice: “Avoid planting this perennial near windows, doors, sidewalks or other frequently populated areas where the brief but overpowering odor from the spadices will be found objectionable.”

Dragon arum, Dracunculus vulgaris
Dragon arum near the entrance to the English Woodland Garden. Photo by Tom Incrocci

Skunk Plant

This plant could be easily overlooked if not for its attention-grabbing odor. Phuopsis stylosa grows just a few inches tall with tiny pink flowers, but emits a musky odor that lends itself to the plant’s common name. It’s certainly known to turn a few heads at the Garden, where it is located just off the path leading to the Climatron. Of all the plants on this list, it is the only one not in the aroid family.

Skunk Plant
Skunk Plant in the Heckman Rock Garden



Cassidy Moody, Digital Media Specialist

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