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No Need To Hold Your Nose; Peak Corpse Flower Bloom Is Over At The Huntington

A crowd of visitors surround a blooming corpse flower, which has a frilled base and long upright center in light green.
Visitors gather to smell the Corpse Flower's foul stench at The Huntington during an August 2014 bloom.
(Courtesy The Huntington)
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While many of us were unwinding from Fourth of July festivities on Monday afternoon, a rare corpse flower at the Huntington Library began its long-awaited bloom.

After years of slow, painstaking growth the 8-foot-tall flower, named Stankosaurus Rex, started opening at 4 p.m. Monday in the library's botanical garden. The flower reached peak bloom overnight on Tuesday, timing that aligns with the habits of the insects the flower needs to attract.

Also strategic: the flower's terrible smell. Orchid collection specialist Brandon Tam explains why these plants smell like, well, a corpse. The goal is to attract pollinators like flesh flies.

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"So a lot of these insects love to lay their eggs on dead, decaying animals and things like that," Tam said. "And that's why this plant produces such a strong stench — to mimic and try to trick these pollinators to come and pollinate the many flowers that are at the base of this entire structure."

Visitors would've been able to smell the flower in its full glory Tuesday, except that the library and gardens were closed for maintenance.

Tam said the flower's full bloom was measured at 98.5 inches, a new record for The Huntington where the previous record for an inflorescence on a corpse flower was 82 inches.

Some people were able to get a whiff of Stankosaurus Rex on Wednesday before it went dormant for another four to six years.

The "oddball" plant, as Tam calls it, captivates the public for a number of reasons, including the height of the bloom, its weird smell and how quickly it grows right before blooming. When the plant was put on display on June 28 it was just 3 feet. A week later it was over 8 feet in height.

He also noted that the plant that bloomed this week took about 18 years to get to this stage. They have 43 of the plants in their collection, part of a wider effort to preserve the species which has suffered due to deforestation. Only about 1,000 corpse flowers are believed to exist in the wild, Tam said.

The Huntington, which has now had just 12 blooms since the first took place in 1999, hopes increasing their collection will give the public more opportunities to witness the rare experience in the future.

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