Rare Plant Stinks Up Science Center

A local citizen recently gave Knox College a “devil’s tongue” plant. In full bloom, the plant smells like rotting flesh.

Miava Reem of the Knox College greenhouse believes the plant is a devil’s tongue, which is related to but smaller and more common than the corpse flower. Both species belong to the genus amorphophallus and are among a number of plants known for their carcass-like stenches.

“It smells like a suitcase full of dead mice,” Reem said of Thompson’s plant, which stands about five feet six inches tall.

After receiving the plant on Monday, Reem first displayed it in the college’s science building, but moved it outside after its odor, described by one faculty member as reminiscent of roadkill, spread through the halls.

Within days, the bloom will fall off and the stench will dissipate. It might be years before it blooms again, Reem said.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago also has a devil’s tongue, which bloomed last month. While not as rare as a true corpse flower, the plant is among the more rare species now found in Knox College’s horticulture collection.

“I’ve been hanging out in this greenhouse for 14 years and the only amorphophallus I’ve ever seen has been in pictures. I never dreamed that one was going to drop into my lap on a Monday morning,” Reem said.

Read the Register-Mail story.