Hundreds gather to watch corpse flower unfurl

By 11 a.m. on Monday, an hour after the U.S. Botanical Garden conservatory opened, a line of hundreds of arum fans had formed outside.


Fans view corpse flower at the U.S. Botanical Gardens on Monday. (Adrian Higgins/The Washington Post)

Inside, a crowd gathered around the Titan, which took center stage in the steamy Garden Court. Parents hoisted children on their shoulders for a better view into the mouth of the ruffled collar. It was a muddy crimson color, adding to the whole Gothic spectacle. Those expecting a stench were disappointed: the flower waits until the evening to do its thing.

The gardeners have dubbed the arum “Andy” for its androgynous nature. Among its quirks: a pulsating heat generation. “We know when it heats up, it gives off this smell,” said Holly Shimizu, executive director. “It’s fun to see people so excited about a plant.”

On Sunday night, the putrid smell permeated the conservatory, according to staffers. The garden is open until 8 pm Monday, when its perfume may stir again. The Titan arum is expected to collapse sometime on Tuesday.

Adrian Higgins has been writing about the intersection of gardening and life for more than 25 years, and joined the Post in 1994. He is the author of several books, including the "Washington Post Garden Book" and "Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden."

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