Rare corpse flower bloom expected in days at San Diego Botanic Garden

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A view of the botanic garden’s corpse flower on Oct. 12. (Photo: SDBG)

ENCINITAS, Calif. — A corpse flower at the San Diego Botanic Garden is expected to bloom in days, a rare event that takes place once every few years.

The botanic garden is inviting the public to come see “Jack Smellington,” the name chosen for this year’s bloom, in person or watch the plant’s progress with a 24-hour live feed from their conservatory.

The plant, officially named Amorphophallus titanum, can grow up to six inches in one day. It is called the corpse flower because of the rancid scent it gives off to attract carcass-eating insects that pollinate it. The endangered plant grows on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra with fewer than 1,000 plants remaining in the wild, SDBG staff said.

Most plants require seven to 10 years to produce their first bloom, and only bloom every 4-5 years after. The last time SDBG’s 14-year-old corpse flower bloomed was in October 2018.

The fully-opened bloom lasts only 48 hours, and the same goes for the smell. The scent will be strongest in the mornings, though the plant sends out bursts of smell throughout the day, SDBG said.

“The corpse flower is the rock star diva of the plant world,” SDBG President and CEO Ari Novy said. “We never know exactly when it’s going to perform, but when it does, it’s the most amazing show in all of horticulture. We can’t wait to see what this corpse flower is going to do.”

In an effort to expand the genetic pool of the plant, SDBG will manually pollinate its corpse flower using pollen collected and donated by the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

The plant is expected to be in full bloom during the Garden’s Fall Festival, which starts Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 1. Entrance to the conservatory is included with admission. Non-member tickets range from $12-18 and each purchase of an adult ticket in October qualifies for one free youth admission.

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