The Mütter Museum’s most popular exhibits – brain slides, preserved livers, and the occasional skeleton – are mostly dead.
But its most recent acquisition is very much alive.
The Mütter recently announced that it’s adding a new "baby" plant to its medicinal garden, thanks to donations from museum store visitors. And in a crowd-sourcing move popularized by multiple other Philly locales, it’s asking museumgoers to vote on the plant’s name.
The formal name of the plant is Amorphophallus titanium, which translates directly as "giant misshapen phallus." But it’s more often called by its colloquial name: the corpse flower. Named for its stench, which has been said to resemble that of rotting meat, the plant in bloom attracts pollinating dung beetles in the wild — and curious observers in the city.
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A corpse flower at the Toronto Zoo is blooming right now, attracting worldwide attention. Just this past August, the LA Times reported three consecutive blooms at the Huntington Library in California, calling them the “Titan Triplets”. And other ambitious scientists across the country, from New Hampshire to Nebraska, have fallen under its smell — er, spell — and are cultivating their own plants.
But don’t hold your breath (or your nose) just yet. Corpse flower blooms are rare and unpredictable; they can take almost a decade to bloom for the first time, and the bloom itself lasts less than two days.
In the meantime, visitors and fans of the museum are invited to weigh in on a new name. Options range from elegant (Hyperion) to silly (Sir Stinkerton, Esquire); you can vote for your favorite online now.