Thousands of people line up to see, smell the ‘stinky feet’ of a dead flowering plant | House and garden

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SAN DIEGO – By 12:30 p.m. on October 25, the long line of visitors outside the San Diego Botanical Garden had grown to nearly 200 people, at least one of whom admitted to driving from Texas overnight just to see the ephemeral flowering of the rare plant Amorphophallus titanum.

Only a handful of public gardens in the United States have these exotic plants from the Sumatran jungle, better known as the ‘corpse plant’, thanks to their huge flowers which, when they are in full bloom, give off a putrid odor. and throbbing with rotting flesh. After a one-month growth cycle, the spathe, or the petal-shaped sheath around the flower’s spadix (a beige, fleshy spike), began to fold back around 3 p.m. on October 31.

Horticultural manager John Clements was one of many garden workers who spent the night on Sunday photographing, measuring, studying and hand-pollinating the flowers at the base of the spadix. Flowering lasts only 48 hours and the plant is unlikely to bloom again for three to four years.

Clements said the plant’s scent is designed by nature to attract scavengers and flesh flies from miles away to aid the pollination process. The smell reaches its peak during the night hours from 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., when the air is calm and the aroma can travel more easily.

He said that on Sunday night the plant’s smell got stronger and more poisonous as midnight approached. Gardeners got sore throats, burning eyes, and a metallic taste in their mouths. The chemical reaction that creates the acidic aroma also heats the flower spadix in a process known as thermogenesis. In the hours after the flower opened on Halloween, Clements said he measured the spadix’s temperature to drop from 75 to 97 degrees at the height of flowering and scent.

“It started out as good French cheese, smelly but delicious,” Clements said of the smell. “Then he switched to teenage socks. Then it was the college gymnasium, followed by the full-fledged rotten fish. Eventually it moved to a rotting corpse smell that was so thick and heavy you could cut it with a knife.

On Monday morning, the 6-foot-tall flower remained in glorious full bloom with its spathe of blood-red petals slowly darkening to a dark brown, but its scent was more muffled. Every few minutes, a wave of scent wafted from the plant. The reduced odor did not seem to bother visitors to the garden who started lining up to view the plant around 8:30 am Monday.

To control the crowds, all tickets to the garden were sold online by timed entry. By Monday morning, all slots were sold out until Tuesday evening, when the last flower will have wilted and collapsed. By then, more than 5,000 people will have cycled through the garden’s Dickinson Family Education Conservatory since Sunday.

A man from Texas heard of the plant blooming on October 31 in the afternoon and went to see it at noon the next day. He didn’t want to give his name because he was “hooked” on the job, but he said it was worth the detour.

Virtually everyone who visited the factory took a picture of her or posed with her for a selfie, then leaned forward to sniff the air. Those who have had a brief scent of the plant have described it in different ways as a dirty diaper, a pile of unwashed laundry, rotten hamburger meat, or “dog poop water.”

For visitors who want more than a photo to remember the prehistoric-looking bloom, the garden gift shop sells corpse flower stickers, coffee mugs, and face masks.

The Hutchinson family of Oceanside were more interested in how the flower looked than how it smelled. Retirees Robert and Maria Hutchinson were so fascinated with the Corpse Plant that they recently purchased a year-round garden pass so they could visit the plant multiple times. On Monday morning, they returned with their adult son, Rob, who said he was fascinated by the flower’s appearance and size.

Another corpse plant, a sister to the now flowering one, is just beginning its floral growth process and is expected to flower in late November. The Richardsons are planning to come back for that one, too.

“All I can say is the amazing petals are amazing in color,” said Robert Huchinson. “I want to come back and see this again. “

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