Corpse Flower and Other Late Bloomers: Photos
A corpse flower blooming is an event meant to be seen -- and smelled.Corbis Images
Gardening is a skill that requires persistence, a willingness to get your hands dirty and -- in the case of the corpse flower -- patience. A good set of nose plugs wouldn't hurt either.
A corpse flower is currently on display at the U.S. Botanic Gardens near Capitol Hill, the first time in six years this flower has appeared at this venue. This rare event is certainly worth witnessing for anyone who can stand the stench.
Given its nickname because its smell when in bloom is akin to rotting flesh, Amorphophallus titanum, also known as Titan Arum, is a fickle flower. It blooms irregularly and can take years or even decades to flower. When it finally does, the plant, in addition to a powerful stench, which is designed to attract pollinators, unveils its deep purple and yellow hues. The show only lasts for a day or two before the petals collapse back in.
This plant isn't the only one that could test the limits of any flower enthusiast's patience. There are other late bloomers and fleeting flowers that bloom once in a blue moon.
Rafflesia arnoldiiTaylor Lockwood/Corbis
A flower that weighs up to 25 pounds; grows up to 3 feet in diameter, larger than any flower; and smells like rotting flesh should be easy enough to track down.
Rafflesia arnoldii, which also goes by the nickname corpse flower, is a rare, parasitic plant that lives off the Tetrastigma vine on the forest floors of Indonesia. The plant take months to grow before bloom, but then only flowers for a few days before dying.
Because of its extremely short flowering period, the Kadupul flower is considered among the most valuable on Earth.Corbis Images
The Kadupul flower, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is in bloom much more frequently than Titan Arum and many other plants on this list. It does, however, flower for a shorter period than any of the others.
Known as the queen of the night, E. oxypetalum only blooms at night, and its flowers whither away before sunrise.
The shrubs that produce these bright purple bells grow at an altitude of between 6,000 and 7,000 feet.Flickr/harisankar
Once every 12 years when they're in bloom, Kurinji flowers can turn entire landscapes in the grasslands of South India purple with their blossoms. The mass blossoming of this shrub, Strobilanthes kunthiana, last occurred in 2006, so it won't be until 2018 until this spectacle can be seen again.
Agave franzosiniiGetty Images
Agave franzosinii blooms irregularly, so predicting when a bud will eventually bloom is impossible. This plant can take decades to bloom -- four of them in the case of one specimen at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
But in the weeks before it flowers, this plant does provide an early warning system of what is to come. It grows to more than four times its original height of around six feet. After a brief display of small, yellow-shaped flowers, the plant dies.
Agave americanaCorbis Images
Described as a century plant because it was once thought to take 100 years to bloom, Agave americana actually flowers after about 10 years, though it can take up to 30. Prior to blooming, the plant, like its cousin in the previous slide, dramatically increases in size, growing up to 30 feet tall.
What triggers the American aloe blooming period is unknown, but like Agave franzosinii, it dies shortly after it flowers.
As a species, the Queen of the Andes reign may not last much longer; the plant is currently listed as endangered.Corbis Images
Known as the Queen of the Andes, Puya raimondii tops out at 40 feet in height and lives for up to a century. During its lifetime, it will only bloom once, an event that can take decades, will produce thousands of flowers and millions of seeds.
As explained by a National Geographic article, the Queen of the Andes takes so long to bloom because of the harsh, barren environment it inhabits. Because of its size, it needs time to gather up the nutrients for its once-in-a-lifetime flowering.
Talipot palms can grow to be more than 80 feet tall.Flickr/wlcutler
During its lifetime, the Talipot Palm, which can grow for up to 80 years, will only flower once at the end of its life. When it finally does bloom, the tree, Corypha umbraculifera, produces the biggest inflorescence -- or most massive flower clusters -- of any other plant on Earth. The palm can bloom more than 20 million individual, cream-colored flowers. The effort leads to an abundance of fruit, so much that predators could not possibly consume all of them, ensuring the next generation of Talipot Palms.
Bamboo flower blooms can lead to a bloom in local rodent populations, so maybe it's not such a bad thing they're rare events after all.Corbis Images
Bamboo may be among the fastest-growing plants on Earth, but they do take their time when it comes to flowering. The Melocanna baccifera plant blooms en masse about once every 50 years, though can take up to 130 years, according to the Royal Botanical Society, Kew. This event last occurred in 2004. What triggers the plant to bloom is a mystery.
Given that Youtan Poluo needs 3,000 years of growth to bloom, according to legend, its flowers sure are tiny.Flickr/zensquared
Youtan Poluo, also known as the udumbara flower, is a legendary plant in Buddhist lore that blooms once every 3,000 years. Given its extraordinarily long perceived blooming frequency, sightings of the plant, a mere one millimeter in diameter, are considered a auspicious sign from heaven.