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Intense stench of dead flowers attracts visitors to San Francisco

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People lined up to smell the corpse flower – a plant that only blooms once every seven to ten years.

Amorphophallus titanum gets its nickname from its stench, described by some as the smell of rotting flesh, while others detect notes of rotting food, sweaty socks, or even garlic.

Crowds lined up outside the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), a research institute and museum, on Wednesday as the endangered tropical flower bloomed, releasing its intense scent.

The corpse flower only blooms for one to three days, although it takes up to a decade.

Visitors line up to see the corpses bloom.  Photo: AP/Jeff Chiu
Picture:
Visitors line up to see the corpses bloom. Photo: AP/Jeff Chiu

Lauren Greig, a San Francisco-based CAS horticulturist, says the smell is essentially bad by design.

“It’s sort of mimicking the smell of a dead carcass to get all the flies to come and interact with it, pick up the pollen, and then take that pollen to another flower that it might investigate because of its smell,” she said. explain.

This was the first bloom of the corpse flower named Mirage, which was donated to CAS in 2017. It has been on display in the museum’s rainforest exhibit since 2020.

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Bri Lister, a data scientist who lives in San Francisco, moved some meetings and waited in line for about an hour to get a feel for the factory.

“In some directions I definitely noticed sweaty socks, sweaty sports clothes, but luckily probably not rotten meat, but definitely a smellier than average plant,” Mr Lister said.

The flower started blooming on Tuesday.  photo: AP/Jeff Chiu
Picture:
The corpse flower began blooming on Tuesday. photo: AP/Jeff Chiu

Monica Becker took her child out of school to see the flower in person after seeing it live on the academy.

“When we heard it was blooming, we thought … we have to go there first thing in the morning, as soon as they open. So here we are,” Ms. Becker said.

“I smelled sweaty feet, a little sweet, pungent… kind of like your shin guards after football,” she joked, turning to her child.

Amorphophallus titanum is native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only fewer than 1,000 individual plants remaining in the wild.

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