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US: Stinky orchid shuts down Smithsonian greenhouse

A specimen of Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis was donated to the Smithsonian Gardens last July. Charmed by its pendant glossy leaves and their resemblance to a beaver’s tail, donors Lynn Cook and Troy Ray of Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, dubbed it ‘Bucky;’ a name that lives on among Smithsonian horticulturalists now caring for the new plant.

At the time it was originally acquired a couple of decades ago, few people outside of Asia had seen this species, though many had read about it and its remarkable ecology. The inflorescence, or flower head, consists of a cluster of about 15 to 20 reddish-brown (meat-colored) flowers covered with fleshy projections called papillae that are said to resemble wriggling maggots.

Early writings about it claim that its blossoms emitted an aroma reminiscent of the stench of "a thousand dead elephants rotting in the sun." While this is surely hyperbole, staffers have been waiting for many months to experience Bucky’s olfactory charms.

Buds were forming under one of its huge floppy leaves, which wasn’t observed until a visitor spied them during a greenhouse tour. Staffers certainly would have noticed them the next day when they opened and started their fragrance treat—making the greenhouse almost uninhabitable for a few days.

Read more at Smithsonian

Publication date: 4/18/2017

 


 

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