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Watch the Rare Bloom of a Corpse Flower

The Amorphophallus titanum, better known as a corpse flower, gets its Latin name from three roots: amorphos (without form), phallos (penis), and titanum (giant).

If the name isn’t enough to entice you, the bloom of this giant plant smells like rotting meat—an odor that is apparently alluring to insects which flock to the flower and pollinate it.

That might not sound like anything a human observer might be interested in, but there's a reason this stinky blossom is a draw for gardens across the country: The plant can take up to 15 long years or more to bloom, and when it does, it only lasts about two days. So after the 15-year-old, 5-foot-tall corpse flower at the Denver Botanic Gardens began to bloom on Tuesday night, crowds started forming at 4:30 a.m. the following day. A total of around 22,000 eventually came to see the plant, though there were reportedly some complaints that it wasn't as pungent as hoped. (If you can call that a complaint.)

The bloom in its twilight, and you can watch it wilting in real time on the garden’s live stream. Even as it fades, Denver’s corpse flower will live on: Its pollen will be sent across the country to pollinate a corpse flower at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

You can also go back and watch the flower unfurl: it was all captured and compressed into a hypnotic timelapse video, which can be found below.

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photography
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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iStock
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video
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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