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‘Corpse Flower’ Set to Bloom in San Francisco

May 28, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO – A giant, stinky flower is attracting a nosy crowd to San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers this holiday weekend.

The titan arum, more commonly known as the “corpse flower,” is set to bloom for the first time in two years.

The plant celebrity is world-famous for the big stink it makes when it opens for three or four days every few years. The flower is known both for its scent, which has been compared to dirty gym socks or rotting meat, and its size.

The 10-year-old plant at the conservatory, nicknamed “Ted the Titan,” is expected to reach a height of 5 feet.

“It’s so voluptuous,” said Scot Medbury, director of the Conservatory of Flowers, as he watched visitors pose for photographs with the towering bud. “It’s more bizarrely beautiful than anything you can imagine, but it’s something that really evolved on this planet.”

The conservatory has extended its hours this weekend, bracing for crowds. The titan arum has even been featured in an episode of “The Simpsons.”

The plant, which is native to Sumatra, uses its scent in the same way that sweet-smelling flowers do: to attract pollinating insects. But this flower hopes to attract flies and carrion beetles that think its pungent odor means food.

The flower is actually made up of many smaller flowers. The arum lily has a potato-like root that weighs 44 pounds, Medbury said. When its hood unfurls, the deep reddish-purple bloom will last a few days, with the scent peaking on the second day. Then the bloom will collapse and the plant will go dormant again.

“Even closed, this truly is just exquisite,” said Tricia Hall of Kentfield, who traveled to the conservatory with her husband, Tom, to see the titan arum. “We were able to enjoy it without being driven away” by the smell, she added with a smile.

Information from: San Francisco Chronicle




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