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Corpse flower at California Academy of Sciences blooms; expected to last only a few days

Putrid-smelling corpse flower blooms at California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gat
Putrid-smelling corpse flower blooms at California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gat 03:20

The corpse flower at the California Academy of Sciences bloomed Tuesday, and visitors will have to make their way over quickly to get a glimpse, and a whiff, of the flower.

Cal Academy expected "Mirage," their first corpse flower, to bloom sometime between Feb. 25 and Feb. 29. Ar around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, it tweeted the flower was blooming, a moment staff have waited five years to arrive ever since the plant came to the museum.

Blooms of the plant amorphophallus titanum can reach 10 feet high and emit a smell reminiscent of carrion, rotten fish, garlic, and sweaty feet.

"As a corpse flower, one of their claims to fame is that they produce this really foul, rotten stench of meat, sweaty feet, garlic, said Cal Academy senior biologist Tim Wong. "To help really disseminate that smell, that attracts the pollinators which are carrying flies and beetles."   

"This plant is very famous for its essence, we'll say, yes," said Cal Academy biologist Kyra Ortiz said. "It is pollinated by carrion beetles and flies, so that fleshy smell, that really stinky, smells like feet, smells like garlic, that is perpetuated into the air."  

It's a rare event, and normally draws extra visitors to the academy, for good reason. It's possible Mirage will not bloom again, or it could take years for it to produce another flower. According to the Academy, it's due to the tremendous energy the plant expends to flower. 

"I think everyone is incredibly excited to experience and smell our bloom," Wong said. "It's larger than life, it's absolutely huge, and when it does smell, it should smell horrific, and I think people really wanna experience that and see what that is like."  

It can take from seven to ten years for the plant to bloom from the time it starts as a seed. The team at the Academy have been watching over it closely, measuring its growth which surpassed six feet in height. It also heats up and can get as hot as a human. 

"The spadix, that tall part of the plant heats up close to body temperature nearly 100 degrees and that will actually help to disseminate the smell over long distances, hopefully bringing and attracting pollinators from equally far," Wong told KPIX. 

Staffers named the plant "Mirage" because it surprised staff when it showed signs of blooming; they were not expecting it to happen at the time. 

Staff realize the plant may not survive the blooming, but they hope it does and can bloom again in another two to three years. 

Visitors should head to the Osher Rainforest at the Academy, which opens at 10 a.m., sooner rather than later as the bloom only lasts about one to three days.  

The Cal Academy is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. The museum opens at 11 a.m. on Sundays. 

The Academy has a livestream of the flower.

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