Huge Stinky Corpse Flower About to Explode in Blossom at Huntington Library

The Huntington library is officially on "bloom watch" as its Corpse Flower readies to blossom ... and stink

Published : Friday, July 27, 2018 | 4:05 PM

Images courtesy The Huntington Library

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino is officially on bloom watch – or should it be bloom “vigil” – as the Huntington’s sixth Corpse Flower (a literal translation of the plant’s Indonesian name, “bunga bangkai”) prepares to flower.

When it does, the plant (scientific name Amorphophallus titanium), native to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, releases a rotten stench that’s meant to attract pollinating insects – those that feed on dead animals or lay their eggs in rotting meat.

The “Li’l Stinker,” as staff at The Huntington call it, is still under 40 inches tall and is The Huntington’s sixth Corpse Flower to date. The fifth came to bloom on August 23, 2014. The plant’s towering inflorescence reached a height of five feet six inches before it opened and released its foul-smelling odor. Besides pollinators, the smell attracted a good number of visitors, too, The Huntington says. Other plants have been known to have grown up to eight feet tall.

Analyses of the chemicals released by other Corpse Flowers show the stench include chemicals exuded from rotting fish, limburger cheese, old sweaty socks, rotting onions and cabbage, and human feces, according to the American Chemical Society.

The plant got its English name from the literal translation of its Indonesian name, “bunga bangkai” (“bunga,” for flower, and “bangkai,” for corpse or cadaver). It is also known as the titan arum to many botanists, shortened from the scientific name.

The Huntington says a Corpse Flower in bloom is “as rare as it is spectacular.”

“A plant can go many years without flowering, and when it does the bloom lasts only one or two days,” according to a note on the Gardens’ website. “Some people travel around the world hoping to see it at the moment it flowers. For botanists and the public, being ‘in the right place at the right time’ to see one of these magnificent plants in bloom can be a once-in-a-lifetime treat.”

The actual bloom time also varies unpredictably. The Huntington’s very first bloom in 1999 took seven hours from when the bloom started to open until it was in full bloom. Previous blooms at the Gardens occurred in 2010, 2009, and 2002.

Bloom watch at The Huntington is officially 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Wednesday, July 25, through Monday, July 30. Tickets on weekdays are $25 for adults, $21 for seniors and students, $13 for youth from 4 to 11 years old, and free for children under 4. On weekends, tickets are $29 for adults, $24 for seniors and students, $13 for youth from 4 to 11, and free for children under 4.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens are at 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino.

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