NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — If you head to the Nashville Zoo, you’ll be able to see one of the largest flowers in the world. Inside the zoo’s aviary located in the Unseen New World, you will find the Amorphophallus titanum.

The flower, native to Sumatra, is more commonly known as a corpse flower. It is now in full bloom. When this happens, it emits an odor that is similar to rotting flesh, giving it the name corpse flower.

The bloom only takes place once every eight to ten years. It also only lasts for a few days and can grow to more than ten-feet in height.

News 2 spoke with Jonathan Ertelt, Retired Vanderbilt Greenhouse Operator. He began growing this particular corpse flower in 2012 from seed at Vanderbilt. After making the difficult decision to close their greenhouses, the corpse flower along with other plants were donated to the zoo by Vanderbilt University.

Ertelt said that this plant grows a single leaf each year, and as it gets larger, it looks like a palm tree.

“With the leaf going straight up 10-feet in the air and then branching out to a large compound leaf. After eight years, it’s flowering for the first time. It’s gotten enough energy into the tuber, so what was initially the size of a golf ball, now looks like a large misshapen basketball. It is somewhere between 30-40 pounds.”

Ertelt is proud the Zoo has made special arrangements so the public can view the corpse flower in full bloom.

“Having it visible; letting people know more of what is going on in the world around them; even on the other side of the world around them is very exciting. It’s pretty special.”

Ertelt told News 2 he’s enjoyed seeing the public come in to see the plant.

“I think the smell is what they first notice but what they will remember is a flower spike that is bigger than they are. I was in plants for 40 years before I saw my first one. It’s just so important to understand we have such a very small sense of the world around us. The more we can go to zoos and botanical gardens and see plants and animals from other places, the more appreciation we have for what we are sharing the planet with. And why we need to worry so much about it staying healthy.”

Ertelt said the corpse flower’s smell can be different to different people.

“It generally is ‘odorific’ and not in a pleasant way. There’s a combination of limburger cheese and garbage, rotting fish, and old gym socks and those things have specifically chemical compounds that make up the majority of that particular fragrance. so that’s why all those things are on the list.”

He told News 2 there is a purpose behind this unforgettable fragrance.

“Any fragrance for a flower is to attract a pollinator, this one is to attract flesh flies and beetles that are the active pollinators in Sumatra. That’s why it smells the way it does.”

Ertelt also explained the most common misunderstanding about the corpse flower.

“The one thing about it that is perhaps the most common misunderstanding that we are not looking at this as a single flower. This is what’s referred to as the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom. Anytime you have an inflorescence you have a flower spike. Actually we have a hole in the back of this one with a mirror back so you can see lots of female flowers today and lots of male flowers tomorrow.”

While this corpse flower is fully open now, Ertelt said they only realized it was going to be a flower spike a few weeks ago.

“When it first starts popping up its hard to tell. Once one of the sheath leaves at the base has fallen away fluctuations of the folded up spat leaf, then you know for sure this is going to be a flower spike.”

If you would like to watch live footage of the corpse flower online, click here.

Ertelt believes there are currently seven corpse flowers in Tennessee. “I dispersed several and kept several of them in the state.”