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August 18, 2022

One flower, one day, huge crowds: Corpse flower blooms

SANTA CRUZ—Thousands of curious folks had a one-day window Tuesday to view and smell a blooming corpse flower at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

The 4-foot tall flower, sheltered beneath a tent and kept warm with a space heater while being gently showered with a water mister, has taken 10 years to bloom.

Its name comes from the foul odor it emits which some say resembles that of decaying meat.

“It’s stinky,” said Isla Marsh, 4, who made the trip twice with her sister, Svea, 7, and mother, Jeanette, from their Watsonville home.

The plant is native to Indonesia, where it typically grows in a tropical rainforest. Martin Quigley, executive director for the Arboretum, said that cooler conditions on the Central Coast made it difficult to predict when the long-awaited bloom would happen.

Jeanette said the family made the trip to the Arboretum on July 29 when researchers there said the plant was beginning to bloom and those interested in experiencing the marvel would have 24 hours to do so. 

“And it wasn’t blooming,” she said. “We were nearly in tears. My girls really wanted to see it and smell it.”

A day later, the Arboretum announced that the flower would likely not bloom only to reverse its announcement some 48 hours later.

Quigley said it is possible that it could bloom in another three years.

Recent muggy weather, and coaxing from the space heater brought the bloom into light which then went on display to the public at 8am Tuesday. The free display continued throughout the day and into the evening before the final curtain call.

One day—that was it.

“It’s pretty, but it doesn’t smell very good,” said Svea.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.

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