The rare “corpse flower” has blossomed at last at Cal State Long Beach, unleashing its famous stench
Ladies and gentleman, the stench has arrived. The rare “corpse flower” has blossomed at Cal State Long Beach, the university announced early Sunday morning, June 2.
And it does indeed stink, according to Brian Thorson, the botanical curator and botany technician in the university’s Department of Biological Sciences — and the rare flower’s caretake. “Yes, it does reek,” he said early Sunday.
Thorson has been waiting for the four-foot-tall Amorphophallus titanum to bloom for a little more than a week now — and it unveiled its deep maroon interior and its intense smell early Sunday morning.
“I arrived at the greenhouse at 6 a.m. and it was already starting to unfurl,” Thorson said early Sunday.
The plant will be on display at the university from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today (Sunday) — and daily until it expires. The flower takes seven to 15 years to blossom, Thorson said, but it will only stay open between 24 and 48 hours.
Phil is located between the Hall of Science, and the Molecular and Life Sciences Center buildings at Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Thorson nicknamed the plant “Phil,” after Philip Baker, the late professor emeritus of plant systematics in the college’s botany program. Baker “was still alive when I acquired the specimens and I told him, and we had a good laugh about it,” Thorson said last month. “He was tickled and flattered.”
Thorson has had previous experience with the famed flower. The university obtained two seedlings of the rare species in 2009. The other — named “Laura,” after former dean Laura Kingsford — bloomed in 2015.
“It’s quite gratifying,” Thorson said. “They are quite rare. They require specific, ongoing care,” he said. “It’s a big achievement for a botanist. There are very few of us that have achieved this.”
Thorson said this edition of the flower is even stinkier that the 2015 bloom.
Thorson said the plant is something of a pop star in the botanical world, with its own enthusiastic following. The plant has been drawing crowds since the university first announced that the blossom stage was at hand last month.
The species, native to the rain forests of Sumatra and also known as Titan Arum, is billed as the world’s largest flower. But it is technically an “inflorescence,” or a cluster of flowers.
“I think the morbid fascination with its stink — why it smells as bad as it is, and how infrequent its flowering cycle is,” Thorson said last month.
The plant can reach more than 6 feet in height when it blooms, opening to a diameter of 3-to-4 feet. When it is in one of its ultra-rare blooms, it gives off the stench of rotting flesh, attracting insects that pollinate the flowers deep inside.
Once the giant corpse flower finishes blossoming, it will go through a short period of dormancy. Then a single leaf, rising up on an underground stalk, begins to grow. That leaf, which can can shoot up as tall as 20 feet, captures energy from the sun and stores it in the underground stalk. The stalk will store energy until the corpse flower has enough to bloom again, according to the United States Botanic Garden.
The species was first displayed in the United States in 1937 at the New York Botanical Garden. It was once the official flower of The Bronx.
“The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is delighted to share Phil’s bloom and increase our connection with the community through the lived experience of science and math,” Thorson said in a statement released Sunday.