After fizzling in 2015, corpse flower blooms at Chicago Botanic Garden

  • Chicago Botanic Garden visitors view Spike the corpse flower, which blooms for one day and smells like rotting meat.

      Chicago Botanic Garden visitors view Spike the corpse flower, which blooms for one day and smells like rotting meat. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Spike the corpse flower in bloom Thursday at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

      Spike the corpse flower in bloom Thursday at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago Botanic Garden visitors view the corpse flower, which blooms for one day and smells like rotting meat.

      Chicago Botanic Garden visitors view the corpse flower, which blooms for one day and smells like rotting meat. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/27/2018 6:27 AM

This time, Spike the corpse flower nailed his bloom.

The Chicago Botanic Garden's massive, rare plant that produces an arresting odor of rotting meat when it blooms, started opening at 4 p.m. Wednesday in a show expected to end late Thursday -- some two years after a much-anticipated bloom fizzled.

"We had no idea. We expected it might be as long as five years until he bloomed again," said Pati Vitt, a senior scientist at the Botanic Garden.

Corpse flowers typically bloom every five years. In 2015, Spike seemed on the verge of blooming, but for whatever reason didn't go through with it, disappointing fans who had gathered to cheer him on.

This time, Botanic Garden officials toned down the fanfare surrounding his bloom until they noticed Spike was beginning to open.

At the time he bloomed, Spike stood 6 feet 10 inches tall, making him the largest corpse flower at the Botanic Garden, Vitt said. On April 13, he was 3 feet 8 inches tall -- meaning he nearly doubled in height in just under two weeks.

Charlie Cagann, 15, of Bartlett, was one of the hundreds of visitors who saw the blooming corpse flower Thursday. Cagann was at the Botanic Gardens during a field trip with classmates from St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights.

"Being able to be here and to see it is a really cool experience," he said, adding it didn't smell as bad as he'd expected. "I don't think it's as awful as they were hyping it up to be."

Kathy Berman, a Botanic Garden tour guide, said the smell is much worse at first.

"When it opens, it gives a puff, and it stinks as bad as they say it does," she said. "It's every stinky sock in you closet, and then some."

However, Spike's bloom was not without a little drama. Around 8 a.m. Thursday, Spike closed a little and stopped producing his trademark scent. Hours later, he reopened and turned on the stink show, for reasons Vitt and scientists don't understand.

Next up for Spike is a long dirt nap. In coming weeks, Spike's tall flower will slowly deflate as the plant works to gather its energy into an underground storage organ called a corm, Vitt said. It will remain dormant for months.

After that, Spike will work to regain the energy he spent these past few weeks by sprouting a massive 18-foot tall leaf.

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