The Mercury received a tip on a potential corpse flower blooming in a NE Portland neighborhood—because of course we did. While the picture certainly looked like the flower in question, some botanical facts™ immediately sprang to mind which made it unlikely this was a real corpse flower: 1) Corpse flowers grow in tropical climates. Last time I looked out the window, we ain't that. 2) The primary reason people line up to see (and smell) a flower that smells like a dead body is that a corpse flower typically blooms only once every 7-10 years! (Do they still smell when they aren't blooming? I'll look that up.)
I've always wanted to smell a corpse flower and since I get a paycheck for looking into this kind of stuff, I decided to investigate!
This flower, growing in some gentle citizen's front yard, was not hard to find but it still required me to climb into their yard—so I was technically trespassing. (Sorry!) I'm not afraid of bad smells so I leaned in for a big, rotten-body whiff! Conclusion: It sort of smelled like shit! Or fertilizer. It smelled like a greenhouse or arboretum (which, now that I think of it, probably smell like shit, too).
From my time spent living with mortuary students, I have a healthy respect for how dead bodies smell. My mortuary student friends told me dead bodies are initially the worst thing you've smelled in your life, but after a while it's like any job, and you find yourself walking around the morgue, talking about what you want for lunch.
This flower is NOT a corpse flower but it looks like it belongs to the Arum genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, of which the corpse flower is also a member. It looks a lot like Arum palaestinum, but could be another species or sub-species. Wikipedia says that Arum palaestinum can smell like "rotting fruit and fermentation" as opposed to some of its other family members which commonly "smell like dung and carrion." Are you sick of me talking about this yet?
I give this flower a 4/10 on a scale of bad smelling things. Initially I thought I would give it a 2/10 or a 3/10, but the scent of the flower stuck with me and sort of gave me an upset stomach. I'm glad my neighbors don't have this plant in their yard, but it isn't anywhere near as bad as when my co-workers microwave Brussels sprouts (that's a 7/10).
UPDATE: Local historian and Mercury contributer, Heather Arndt Anderson, has identified this as Dracunculus vulgaris or a dragon flower! That sounds cool. She made a sign for hers to educate people about getting the "full experience."