Spring brings sun showers and flowers in full bloom. Sweet aromas and pollen fill the air along with a smell that may remind you of rotten meat. According to the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, that's the aroma some enterprising flowering plants emit in order to get pollinated. Flowering plants like the voodoo lily, corpse flower and starfish flower release the smell of decomposing flesh to attract flies or other flying, carrion-eating insects. This is one of nature's ingenious, if malodorous, ways of adapting living things to their environment.
The starfish or Zulu giant flower grows in the deserts of South Africa. The harsh desert biome offers few insect pollinators so the Stapelia gigantea developed a clever adaptation. One species of insects that lives in this environment is flies. Flies scavenge for their food and are attracted to the smell of carrion, or rotten flesh, from long distances. The starfish flower grows large, fleshy yellow flowers that have a similar texture to decaying flesh and give off the odor of rotting meat. The flower adapted in this way to use flies as pollinators.
Dracunculus vulgaris is known by several macabre names. It is the devil's tongue, the dragon flower and the voodoo lily. It is also decidedly stinky. This fast-growing native European plant grows from bulbs and can reach a height of 6 feet in just a few weeks. The plant develops one very large maroon or red spathe flower and a dark red spike in the early spring. When the flower matures, it gives off a smell like that of a combination of dung and rotten meat. The mix brings many flies and beetles to pollinate the plant. The bad smell lasts only a few days and goes away as the flower dies.
Another smelly giant makes its home in Sumatra. Amorphophallus titanum is called the corpse flower due to the terrible smell it sends into the air. The corpse flower is a spathe-type flowering plant with one large spathe leaf and a phallus-shaped spike. Corpse flowers are the largest flower-like structures on Earth. The purple fleshy flower can reach a height of 9 feet and be 3 feet in diameter. During the flowering process, the plant uses stored heat to volatilize and disperse its carrion stench, which attracts the beetles and sweat bees that pollinate the species.