Corpse Flower Finally Blooms, Eats Botanical Garden

This past week Des Moines residents and passers-through were fortunate to witness the much anticipated bloom of the Corpse Flower at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Things soon, however, took a turn for the worse…and the bizarre.

The flower quickly grew past its anticipated height of three to four feet, and within hours it had nearly reached the domed ceiling of the botanical garden. As it met its glass enclosure, seemingly aware of the obstacle impeding further growth, it simply began chewing right through.

Moments later, in a scene reminiscent of the 1986 Hollywood film adaptation of an off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors, it had already consumed the entire botanical garden and, it is believed, a number of visitors and employees. Apparently satisfied, the flower then receded into the ground from whence it came, leaving behind not a single trace of the botanical garden that previously occupied the site near the Des Moines River.

Local Des Moines resident Tom Lackluster heard about the disaster on the nightly news.

“I’m just glad I changed my major. Look, I’m a Des Moines resident, born and raised. I was a botany major my freshman year until I failed most of my classes and switched to marketing. Working at the botanical garden downtown would have been my dream job. That could have been me, man. I would have been working the bonsai display if the chips fell the right way.”

The aptly named Corpse Flower (now for more reasons than one) is known to scientists (and Wikipedia enthusiasts) as Titan arum. It is a rare flower that, rather unpredictably, blooms perhaps every five to ten years depending on conditions. In the wild, the Titan arum only grows in Sumatra, Indonesia. This particular specimen was brought to Iowa from the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California in 2013.

An image of the Corpse Flower (Titan arum) moments before devouring the Botanical Center in which it grew.

Botanical Garden employee Peach Williams was on her day off as the Corpse Flower was devouring its surroundings.

“I knew that thing was trouble from day one. I told ’em not to bring it in here. I threatened to quit over it. Guess that’s neither here nor there now. If you had asked me to describe that plant in one word, back then, I would have said ‘Alien.’ What do the movies tell us about aliens, huh? What do they tell us?”

The Titan arum was given the name “Corpse Flower” because during bloom it emits a smell reminiscent of rotting flesh. This evolutionary mechanism allows it to attract pollinating insects to assist in carrying out its lifecycle. Evidently the specimen in the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden evolved one step further, straight to the top of the food chain.

It was a bittersweet moment for the former director of the garden.

“Obviously we are terribly saddened at the loss of life and at the loss of our great garden. After all, it was a source of gainful employment and life fulfillment for many, including myself. Yet, what we witnessed is an amazing chapter of life’s evolution. We got to see that here first, so it’s a bit of a feather in the cap for Des Moines, Iowa.”

It remains to be seen whether the Titan arum will reemerge from the site of its great feast, but a webcam (dubbed the “God Cam”) has been placed nearby to record any resurrection or second coming.