Return to site

A Visit to the Corpse Flower

As most of you have heard, I moved from Northern California to Milwaukee back in October 2022. My kids both attend Marquette University here in Milwaukee, and I've fallen in love with the city.

One of the many unique and fascinating attractions in the city is the Mitchell Park Domes (the photo in the header is by Michael Barera), a horticultural conservatory composed of three beehive-shaped glass domes, each 140 feet in diameter and 85 feet high. Each of the domes represents a different climate.

We were in for a treat this week, as the tropical dome hosts a few corpse flowers (Amorphophallus titanum, the titan arum). This flower is huge—some of them are over 10 feet high. They flower very infrequently, most of them once every 7 to 10 years, and then for only about a day. And, true to the name "corpse flower," they reek like dead, rotting flesh.

Perfect for a mystery author like me!

The local Milwaukee news was abuzz earlier this week: the corpse flower was about to bloom! My wife and I went to go see the flower on Saturday morning.

I'd heard the line to see it on Friday afternoon had been very long—people had to wait for over two hours in line. I was a little nervous that we wouldn't get in, but the line wasn't too bad half an hour before opening.

After paying for our tickets, we wound our way around the tropical dome, seeing fascinating flora like the rattlesnake plant. And after about twenty more minutes, we got to the grand prize: the titan arum.

broken image

Alas, the flower had been in bloom for almost 24 hours, and so was rapidly closing, and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it no longer reeked of rotting flesh. This is also one of the smaller titan arums out there, only about five feet tall. (Still, pretty big for a flower!)

The Mitchell Park Domes are fantastic, and I'm going back when I can spend more time there. Who knows—it might serve as a great backdrop for a future mystery set in Milwaukee!