Friday, April 12, 2024

Visitors Line Up to See San Francisco’s Stinky Corpse Flower

The Corpse Flower, renowned for its potent odor, draws crowds in San Francisco, with some comparing its scent to rotting flesh while others detect notes of decomposing food, sweaty socks, or even garlic.

This rare botanical wonder, scientifically known as the amorphophallus titanum, blooms just once every seven to 10 years, prompting eager enthusiasts to line up for a chance to experience its fragrance.

At the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), where the endangered tropical flower bloomed, the air was filled with its intense aroma, attracting curious visitors. Despite its foul smell, Lauren Greig, a horticulturist at CAS, explains that this scent serves a purpose, mimicking the odor of decaying flesh to attract pollinators like flies.

“It’s kind of imitating the smell of kind of a dead carcass to kind of get all the flies to come and interact with it, pick up pollen, and then take that pollen to another flower that it might investigate due to its smell,” she explained.

Corpse flower initial blooming – San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

Mirage, the Corpse Flower on display, experienced its inaugural bloom since being donated to CAS in 2017. Bri Lister, a local data scientist, rearranged her schedule to join the queue, describing the scent as reminiscent of sweaty gym clothes with hints of pungent sweetness, but thankfully not overpoweringly like rotting meat.

“In certain directions, I definitely picked up on the sweaty socks, sweaty gym clothes,” Lister said, “but probably luckily not full-on rotting meat, but definitely a smellier plant than average.”

Monica Becker even took her child out of school to see the flower after watching it on a livestream. She jokingly likened the scent to sweaty feet, sweet yet sharp, eliciting laughter from her child. They were excited to experience the rare event together.

The corpse flower is from Sumatra, Indonesia. According to experts, it’s endangered, with only a few hundred plants left in the wild. Despite its foul smell, people are fascinated by this unique plant.