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Giant ‘corpse flower’ draws crowds in Southern California

The endangered plant is known for its rotting smell when it blooms.

A rare Amorphophallus titanum, better known as the corpse flower, is the main attraction Monday at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, California. The stinky bloom of the giant Sumatran plant appeared Sunday afternoon. The blooms last just 48 hours. The plants, which are native to Indonesia, are considered endangered in the wild. (Jarrod Valliere/San Diego Union Tribune via AP)

The bloom of a giant, stinky Sumatran plant nicknamed the “corpse flower” because it smells like a dead body is drawing crowds to a Southern California botanical garden.

The bloom of the Amorphophallus titanum plant began Sunday afternoon at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. By Monday morning, timed-entry tickets had sold out, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

More than 5,000 people were expected to visit the garden to see the plant.

The bloom of the corpse flower, which is native to the Indonesian island Sumatra, lasts just 48 hours. During its peak it emits an odor of rotting flesh to attract carrion beetles and flesh flies that help its pollination process. The blooming cycle is unpredictable, but there are typically years between blooms.

The blooming flower had a “rotting corpse smell that was so thick and heavy you could cut it with a knife,” said John Connors, horticulture manager for the San Diego Botanic Garden.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the corpse flower as endangered, with fewer than 1,000 of them left in the wild. IUCN estimates that more 50 percent of its population has declined in the past 150 years, mostly because of habitat loss.

There are several of these plants at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., with one of them having bloomed in June. The public wasn’t allowed to see the bloom in person, however, because of the pandemic.

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