If you've ever been digging into a big cleaning job -- say, the garage or the back of the fridge -- and you've encountered a rather skin-curdling smell, the first thing you typically do is summon other family members to help you find the source.
Which they'll love doing (not). And while the smell's emanation point might ultimately elude you, it never, ever eludes biologists when there's a corpse flower in the the greenhouse.
Because that tall, weird, seemingly prehistoric beauty of a bud? Hoo boy, it is a full-on, plug-your-nose stinker.
A stinker, we'll add, that is always rejoiced over, given the bloom's rarity and mystery. California State University Long Beach is currently enjoying that mystery at the moment, as a resident corpse lily stands in majestic bloom. The university's site is equally as giddy: "Something stinks on California State University, Long Beach's campus and the Biological Sciences department is ecstatic."
Just tell that to your kids or spouse next time they refuse to help you find the refrigerator's rancid surprise.
It's not the first corpse flower to grace Southern California with its one-of-a-kind odor, described by the CSULB site as redolent of "decomposing flesh"; The Huntington, Orange Coast College, and the University of California Santa Barbara have all recently played the happy host to the headline-garnering flora.
CSULB Botany Technician and Botanical Curator Brian Thorson "acquired the seedling in 2010 when it was approximately two years old and the size of a baseball." And like all good corpse flowers, it got a memorable moniker: Laura, in honor of Laura Kingsford (Dean Kingsford heads up the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics).
No word yet if the next corpse flower acquired by CSULB will be Laura II, but here's some inspiration for the Botanical Sciences flower-namers: The Huntington always names its corpse flower Stinky -- all the way up through the most recent bloom, Stinky the Fifth.
So why does a corpse flower stink so? To "attract carrion beetles," which desire, for their dining pleasure, a carcass. So how tall is Laura? About four feet and thirty inches around. And when will the bloom end? Maybe by the close of the day on June 16, though blooms can stay showy for a full day to two full days.
Flowers, like humans, can be fickle.
Where to see her, while the stunning sight, and even more stunning smell, lasts? You can visit the site for snapshots or drop a line to Brian.Thorson@csulb.edu.