Flowers are supposed to smell delicious, but not The Corpse Flower. When it decomposes, the odour keeps flies and beetles away. But it didn’t keep me away. I drove from Sacramento all the way to UC Davis just to see it. I have never smelled a corpse, and so I can only compare it to rotten fish.
It’s scientific name is Amorphophallus Titanum or Titan Arum. It grows in the rainforest on Sumatra island in Indonesia. Besides the scent, the flower has other unique qualities: It is very tall. Sometimes it’s taller than a human being. It has an exuberant red color. It blooms for about three days or 48 hours each year. So if you miss it, you have to wait another year to see it.
The seeds came to UC Davis in 1996. The flower at the the Botanical Conservatory at UC Davis gets a lot of visitors. They come to see it, take pictures, and most importantly, to smell it. Some also touch it.
“Soft, soft!” says Ernesto Sandoval, a Mexican from Los Angeles, who is the director of the Botanical Conservatory. I touched the stalk and the back of the petals. They felt like papier mache.
Driving back to Sacramento, I was happy to have seen the Corpse Flower in its last day of bloom. Despite its fishy scent, it is a beautiful gift of nature.
Editor: Maria Ginsbourg, journalism graduate from San Francisco State University