Corpse Flower Stinks Up Botanical Garden

Tim Maloney/Staff

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Corpse Flower opens

The Corpse Flower at the UC Botanical Garden opened June 29.

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Marcie Gutierrez stood in front of the newly bloomed, 4-by-2-foot "corpse flower" at the UC Botanical Garden Wednesday, taking in the pungent odor of rotting flesh.

"(The smell) really starts your gag reflex going," she said.

Gutierrez was one among hundreds who gathered throughout the day to see Maladora, the latest "corpse flower" to bloom at the garden. The flower began blooming Tuesday and is expected to produce its noxious odor for about eight to 12 hours before collapsing.

The corpse flower, officially called Amorphophallus titanum, was discovered in 1878 by Italian botanist, Odoardo Beccari in Sumatra. Maladora arrived in the garden in 2008, according to garden docent Elaine Halnan.

The plant earned its colloquial name from the odor it emanates, meant to attract the beetles that pollinate it. The smell is only produced when the plant blooms - roughly every seven years.

Berkeley resident and self-described plant enthusiast David Richman noted the size difference between Maladora and Trudy, the corpse flower that bloomed last summer. He said that Trudy produced a much more pungent odor and was surrounded by more flies. Nevertheless, Richman was not disappointed by Maladora.

"It's a remarkable aspect of biology on Earth today," he said.

Tom Wills, a Vallejo resident who was visiting a corpse flower for the first time, made a different comparison.

At home, Wills grows a "voodoo lily" - a slightly smaller and less odorous member of the Amorphophallus family that blooms only once a year. Yet Richman said it is worth the wait to experience the larger, more pungent corpse flower.

"All the senses are impacted," he said. "Smell certainly, but it also an amazing sight to see."

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