Its scent has drawn comparisons to garbage and spoiled meat, but that isn't stopping crowds from flocking to see — and smell — an unusual plant in bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden.
The titan arum plant, nicknamed "corpse plant" for its rank smell, was attracting thousands of visitors during the day or two it remained in bloom.
"It's quite spectacular: the color and the form and the strong odor," said John Kress, chairman of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's botany department, which owns the plant. "I think that's what most people come to see. Or smell."
The long, conical bloom of the titan arum is believed to be the largest flower that doesn't grow on a tree. It's been known to grow 12 feet high in its native habitat, the island of Sumatra.
The specimen at the botanic garden, which began blooming early Sunday, is about 5 feet high.
Now that it's in bloom, the plant has also started emitting its smell, which has drawn comparisons to garbage, spoiled meat and rotting fish.
But the plant's stench is actually the key to its survival. Carrion beetles and other pollinators in Sumatra are attracted to the smell, Kress said.
About 2,000 people had come to the botanic garden to see the plant by Sunday afternoon, and at least 10,000 were expected by day's end.
Visitors are also interested in the plant because there are few chances to see one, Kress said. There are only about a dozen of the plants in the United States.
A typical titan arum plant only blooms about once every five years. The one at the U.S. Botanic Garden is blooming for the first time at age 14, CBS reports.