An all-pervasive stinking smell from a Sumatran flower known as the “corpse plant” that smells like a dead body attracts huge crowds to a Southern California botanical garden.
The Amorphophallus titanum shrub began blooming at the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas on Sunday afternoon. Timed-entry tickets were sold out by Monday morning. More than 5,000 people are expected to visit the garden by Tuesday evening, according to AP news.
The “corpse plant’s” bloom lasts only 48 hours, and during that time, it releases a foul odor of rotting flesh to attract carrion beetles and flesh flies, which aid in pollination.
The scent peaks during the nighttime hours of 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. when the air is still, and the aroma can travel more easily.
“It started out as a good French cheese, stinky but delightful,” Horticulture Manager John Clements said of the smell. “Then it moved on to adolescent boys’ socks. Then it was junior high school gymnasium, followed by full-on rotten fish. Finally, it moved all the way to a rotting corpse smell that was so thick and heavy you could cut it with a knife.”
Amorphophallus titanum bloomed on Halloween night, contributing to the Garden’s Fall Festival, which runs through mid-November.
A corpse flower’s bloom is a rare and exceptional occasion, as most plants take seven to ten years to produce their first blooms and then only bloom every four to five years after that.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, almost everyone who came to see the plant took pictures of it or posed with it for a selfie, then leaned forward to sniff the air.
Those who got a brief whiff of the plant described it variously as a soiled diaper, a pile of unwashed clothing, rotting hamburger meat, or “Eau de dog crap.”
The garden’s gift shop has corpse flower stickers, coffee mugs, and face masks for tourists who want something more than a photo to remember the prehistoric-looking bloom.