Discovered on an island off the coast ofÂ Madagascar, the newfound plant grows up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and blooms once a year with a “really foul” stench, according to discovererÂ Greg Wahlert, a postdoctoral researcher in botany at the University of Utah.
Lynn Bohs, a biology professor in the same lab as Wahlert, described the smell in a statement as a combination of “rotting roadkill” and a “Porta Potty.”
The new flower adds to the roughly 170 species in theÂ Amorphophallus genus, which means “misshapen penis” in Greek after the phallic shape of the plants’ flowers.
Finding Flower a Stroke of Luck
Wahlert discovered the new speciesâ€”namedÂ A. perrieriâ€”in full bloom while collecting violets in two remote islands northwest of Madagascar in 2006 and 2007.
Suspecting the plant might be a new species, he brought back samples and began cultivating them. After consulting with anÂ Amorphophallus expert in the Netherlands, he confirmed thatÂ A. perrieri was a previously undescribed species.
BecauseÂ A. perrieri is dormant for much of the year, Wahlert’s discovery is a case of good timing.
For months out of the year, there’s little rain in that part of Madagascar, so the plants remain dormant underground.
“These things are growing out of the most miserable soil,”Â said Wahlert, who is working on a scientific paper about the species.
The specimen he is cultivating in the university’s greenhouse shot up its flower in just two weeks. If Wahlert had been visiting the islands at a different time, “I could have very easily missed it.”
Stinky Flowers “Fascinating”
AllÂ Amorphophallus species emit smells to attract flies and other insects.
Though a few emit more pleasant aromas, such as chocolate or spices, most smell terrible to human noses, Wahlert said.
“You can imagine in Africa, where big game will die and rot in the sun … that’s what they smell like,” Wahlert said.
Despite the stench, he added, “I’m glad I got a stinky one. It’s fascinating to me.”