Corpse Flower: Smelly Encinitas Bloom Ahead

Titan Arum, a four-foot-tall specimen, will likely open up on Sept. 16 or 17 at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

Harbingers come in all shapes, sizes, and, yes, smells, and recognizing a petal-possessing premonition is a skill many of us have.

Take Halloween, which is still several weeks away. True, bags of candy are showing up in the stores, and cute kid costumes, too, but one of the most distinct harbingers of the haunting season will be making its appearance known, strongly, over the middle weekend of September.

The place? The San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. The dates? Saturday, Sept. 16 and/or Sunday, Sept. 17, with a big asterisk that those times and dates remain fluid and changeable. 

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And Halloween's haunting early harbinger? A rare botanical specimen that's best known by its popular name, the corpse flower. This is the blossom that stinks to the skies, or at least fills up the nostrils, nastily, of anyone standing in its distinctive presence.

The name says it all: Carrion, or "rotting carcass," is the eau de perfume of the corpse flower.

As anyone might guess, this talent has won the flower many fans among both botanical buffs and those people who like extraordinary sights and smells. People who will travel many miles to witness the blooming event, and sniff it, too.

Is witnessing something with your nose called sniffnessing it? Let's go with that.

Corpse flower fans, though, do know that predicting the exact bloom, and the "unique stench" the bloom delivers, means staying nimble and ready to roll. The San Diego Botanic Garden believes its "deathly-smelling Amorphophallus titanium" will achieve top bloom status on Saturday, Sept. 16 or Sunday, Sept. 17.

You won't miss it, either in the olfactory sense or with your eyes: The flower will hit an impressive height of about four feet.

The back story on this "otherworldly" addition to the garden? It just appeared at the Gala in the Garden on Saturday, Sept. 9 at the Encinitas-based nature destination, but it didn't crash the party; rather, California State University Fullerton kindly loaned it to SDBG.

This is one of a dozen specimens to bloom from seeds planted a decade ago from a corpse flower that was shown at San Diego Botanic Garden in 2006. That planting was the result of a partnership between CSF, SDBG, the Fullerton Arboretum, and James Boohman, who owned the 2006 corpse flower.

That tale right there goes to show how much care and collaboration goes into a single corpse flower, with a number of individuals and organizations working to see a seed grow, and then bloom, over time. 

And time it does take, for a corpse flower only blooms "every 5 to 10 years." 

If you want to witness this, and sniffness this, too, keep a watch on the San Diego Botanic Garden's social media pages, which will keep tabs on what this odiferous superstar is up to as the middle of September approaches.

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