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UConn's Corpse Flower is blooming in all its stinkiness

By Brinley-CNET ·
UConn's Titan Arum, better known as the corpse flower for its pungent (that may be putting it mildly) odor, began blooming at 8:30AM this morning. It is the first time a corpse flower has bloomed in the Northeast since 1937. Here is a live webcam:

http://www.news.uconn.edu/2004/jul2004/rel04069.htm

Has anybody actually sniffed the putrid odor?

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Classic Geek bonus coverage

by Jay Garmon Contributor In reply to UConn's Corpse Flower is ...

From the Feb. 26, 2003 edition of Geek Trivia:

TITLE: I smell foul play
Q. It is strange testament to trivia enthusiasts everywhere that the Guinness Book of World Records has more than one entry under the heading "smelliest," suggesting that geeks have a more than passing interest in powerful stenches. Apparently, the world's most repugnant floral aroma (how ever one would arrive at such a quantification) is found in amorphophallus titanium, otherwise known as the "Corpse Flower" or "Devil's Tongue." Hailing from the rainforests of Sumatra, The Corpse Flower can grow to a height of over six feet, and during its bloom cycle emits a horrific odor compared to (appropriately enough) rotting flesh. While the Corpse Flower stands alone as the stinkiest flower, scientists are divided on what single molecule produces the most repulsive stench. It all comes down to a battle of mercaptans: Ethyl mercaptan (C2H5SH) versus butyl seleno-mercaptan (C4H9SeH). Butyl seleno-mercaptan is the familiar culprit behind skunk spray odor, while ethyl mercpatan is a man-made molecule that in sufficient doses will induce not just the expected gag reflex and dizziness, but can cause liver and kidney damage. According to Guinness, these two concoctions tie for the foulest smelling molecules appearing on an index of some 17,000 odors (again, who researches this stuff?). Still, neither the corpse flower nor the skunk spray nor even the kidney-crushing ethyl mercaptan has made the cut for perhaps the most discriminating duty for which a foul smell could ever hope to qualify: weapons research. One particular man-made substance smells so horrendous that the U.S. military has publicly considered using the odor as a nonlethal deterrent, though that is far from the substance's original purpose.

WHAT FOUL-SMELLING MAN-MADE SUBSTANCE IS BEING CONSIDERED AS A NONLETHAL WEAPON?

A. We asked what man-made concoction is hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the smelliest substance ever created, so much so that the U.S. military has considered employing the substance as a nonlethal weapon.
The clinically named "U.S. Government Standard Bathroom Malodor" has actually been tested by the U.S. Army as a nonlethal deterrent that could be employed to disperse mobs of civilian rioters or even enemy troops. The smell in question is said to resemble the unpleasant stew of odors that accumulate in public restrooms, which is the explicit purpose for which "Standard Bathroom Malodor" was designed. Created at the Philadelphia-based Monell Chemical Senses Center, the "Malodor" was originally conceived as a base against which to test deodorants and cleaning products, which is why chemists specifically cultivated the smell of a befouled toilet (yay, science!). Of course, the U.S. army isn't blazing any new trails with "Bathroom Malodor," as the French forces during World War II also used chemical stink bombs against German troops. The sulfur-based and humorously named "Who Me?" substance smelled of rotting flesh, and was intended to repel Nazi forces not just from French positions, but also from each other. While effectiveness of these stench tactics is unclear, "Who Me?" was not considered a great success imply because--like all bad smells--it was difficult to contain and could just as easily contaminate civilians as combatants. Little wonder that WWII veterans proclaimed that "war is hell."

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I questioned the geek factor...

by Brinley-CNET In reply to Classic Geek bonus covera ...

I initially questioned the geek factor on this one -- until this classic Geek Trivia popped up. Thanks for the reply, Trivia Geek!

So, anybody actually smelled this thing? If you live near UConn, admission to the botanical gardens is free and the gardens are open around the clock until the bloom wilts -- about 72 hours from now.

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