Rare “Corpse” To Stink Up Huntington Library

Something is going to stink this week at the Huntington Library.

An Amorphophallus titanum, also known as a "corpse flower," is growing several inches a day and preparing to make a rare bloom -- revealing not only its velvety maroon interior but its even more notorious smell.

According to officials at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, there have only been 50 documented blooms of the corpse flower in the United States. A different corpse flower bloomed at The Huntington in 1999 -- the first ever in California -- and again in 2002.

The flower preparing to make its blooming debut this week was propagated by a seed from the 1999 bloom -- earning it the affectionate nickname "Son of Stinky." It now stands about 4 feet tall.

Officials can't say for certain when the bloom will occur, but they estimate it could occur sometime between Wednesday and Sunday. The bloom typically lasts about two days.

The plant, native to the rain forests of Sumatra and also known as Titan Arum, is billed as the world's largest flower, but it is technically an "inflorescence," or a cluster of flowers. It can reach more than six feet in height when it blooms, opening to a diameter of three to four feet.

When in one of its ultra-rare blooms, it gives off an odor akin to rotting flesh, attracting insects that pollinate the flowers deep inside.

When a specimen was first displayed at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the late 19th century, at least one Victorian woman was said to have swooned when she got a whiff of the bloom. The flower was first displayed in the United States in 1937 at the New York Botanical Garden.

The Huntington's corpse flower is on display at the garden's Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science, which houses hundreds of rare tropical specimens.

For daily updates, the public can call (626) 405-2100 or visit the library's Web site at www.huntington.org.
 

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