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Wikimedia Commons / Galawebdesign

Watch a Corpse Flower Bloom, Live

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Wikimedia Commons / Galawebdesign

Something stinky is afoot in Washington, DC. No, it's not what you think! A "corpse flower" (Amorphophallus titanum, sometimes known simply as "Titan") will soon bloom at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. You can watch it happen, live, online:

You don't want to miss the flower -- the bloom only lasts 24-48 hours, and the last time this happened in DC was 2007. Its legendary rotting-flesh smell will draw visitors to take a whiff of something truly disgusting, though fortunately for us there's no way to transmit the odor online. Yet.

As I watch this morning (while basically nothing is happening -- it's a plant just sitting there while visitors wander by and take pictures), over 900 others are with me on UStream. Join us in watching, live, as this stinky flower blooms over the coming days! (If that's too exciting for you, watch a drop of pitch slowly form.)

More context from the Botanic Garden Conservatory:

The titan arum does not have an annual blooming cycle. The time between flowering is unpredictable, which can span from a few years to a few decades. The plant requires very special conditions, including warm day and night temperatures and high humidity, making Botanic Gardens well suited to support this strange plant outside of its natural range.

This plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, and was first discovered in 1878. Public viewing of this unique plant has occurred a limited number of times in the United States. The U.S. Botanic Garden last displayed a blooming titan arum in 2007.

We last covered breaking corpse flower news in 2006, when a stinky titan bloomed in Brooklyn (and yes, there was a webcam of that too).

Read more about the flower from National Geographic, including this wonderful line:

"We'd never get away with putting out a dead animal for you to smell," [curator Bill McLaughlin] chuckles. "But somehow when it's a flower it's perfectly acceptable."

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This Is What Flowers Look Like When Photographed With an X-Ray Machine
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Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “Peruvian Daffodil” (1938)

Many plant photographers choose to showcase the vibrant colors and physical details of exotic flora. For his work with flowers, Dr. Dain L. Tasker took a more bare-bones approach. The radiologist’s ghostly floral images were recorded using only an X-ray machine, according to Hyperallergic.

Tasker snapped his pictures of botanical life while he was working at Los Angeles’s Wilshire Hospital in the 1930s. He had minimal experience photographing landscapes and portraits in his spare time, but it wasn’t until he saw an X-ray of an amaryllis, taken by a colleague, that he felt inspired to swap his camera for the medical tool. He took black-and-white radiographs of everything from roses and daffodils to eucalypti and holly berries. The otherworldly artwork was featured in magazines and art shows during Tasker’s lifetime.

Selections from Tasker's body of work have been seen around the world, including as part of the Floral Studies exhibition at the Joseph Bellows Gallery in San Diego in 2016. Prints of his work are also available for purchase from the Stinehour Wemyss Editions and Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “Philodendron” (1938)
Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “Philodendron” (1938)

X-ray image of a rose.
Dr. Dain L. Tasker, “A Rose” (1936)

All images courtesy of Joseph Bellows Gallery.

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125 Million Years Ago, One of the World's Very First Flowers Bloomed
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iStock

Ferocious dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the early Cretaceous Period (145 to 100 million years ago), but beneath their giant feet, a tiny—yet important—evolutionary movement was beginning to take root. During the previous Jurassic Era, the world had been filled with ferns, conifers, and cycads, and nary a flower bloomed. This changed around 125 million years ago, our fossil records show, when one of the word’s very first flowers, Archaefructus liaoningensis, sprouted in what is now northeastern China. This preserved plant marks the beginning of angiosperms, which are fruiting plants that rely on animals to spread their capsule-enclosed seeds.

In the video below, PBS Eons explains why angiosperms were so important to early life on Earth, and how they took over the world to eventually account for more than 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial plants.

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