For more about Corpse Flowers and previous blooms at the Conservatory of Flowers, please read on.
PREVIOUS CORPSE FLOWER BLOOMS
Scarlett the Titan
June 3, 2019:
This morning is a bittersweet day. Most of the scent has passed as Scarlett begins to close. Now will begin the next phase of this Corpse Flower’s life… A nice long NAP! The bloom should remain standing for the next few days for public viewing. As the bloom begins to senesce, our horticulture experts will remove any decaying portions to ensure that the ever-important corm underground remains free from disease or rot. Once all above ground portions have died back, Scarlett will be moved to a behind the scenes space to quietly rest. We will be open today from 10:00a.m. to 10:00pm for your viewing pleasure with last entry at 9:30p.m. Come on down and take a gander at Scarlett the Titan!
Here are some photos from last night’s stinkfest with some helpful captions:
Here you see Scarlett in her full bloom glory. You can also see how that central spadix heats up. For Scarlett, around 87 degrees Fahrenheit!
These three photos show the journey of a curious, scent-driven insect. Notice the small individual flowers at the very base of the spadix. Incredible!
June 2, 2019: 6:13p.m.
The show has finally begun… Scarlett’s spathe has begun to open signifying that tonight is the night! From here things progress rapidly. As Scarlett’s pollinators are only active deep in the night the real prime time stinkfest will be closest to midnight. Tonight, we will be open until 10:00p.m. (last entry 30 minutes prior to closing) so come on down to take a whiff and witness this spectacle of the botanical world. Here are some initial photos of our star!
May 31, 2019:
The smell of this curious bloom itself is certainly impressive, but what part of the plant is stinky? The answer may surprise you! This plant can produce some of the nastiest-smelling chemicals around all manufactured in the top of the central spadix.
Here are just a few of the fun fragrances produced by the Corpse Flower and where you might encounter them elsewhere in the world:
1) dimethyl trisulfide – A liquid with a foul odor and can be detected by humans as low as 1 part per trillion. It has been found emitted from cooked onions, leeks, broccoli and cabbage. You can even find it in your Limburger cheese!
2) isovaleric acid – This lovely one may be easily recognized. A study in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology found that this acid is produced by a bacterium called Staphylococcus epidermidis which lives naturally on the human skin and produces that characteristic sweaty feet smell.
3) trimethylamine – This scent can be a shapeshifter of sorts. In low concentrations you can detect the smell of rotting fish while higher amounts tend to be more like ammonia. It can be found as a product of plant or animal decomposition and even bad breath.
With these lovely chemicals combined with others we are treated to the deep odor of rotting flesh. It is a smell that few people on this planet get to experience and we are thrilled to share it with you once again!
Other exciting news to share today… Scarlett measured in this morning at 71.25 inches! This officially puts Scarlett ahead of our previously tallest individual, Terra the Titan back in 2017. Come in and see this towering specimen in person to get the full perspective but for now, here are some progress photos:
May 28, 2019:
The Corpse Flower is often confused for the largest flower in the plant kingdom. That distinction goes to another smelly species, Rafflesia arnoldii. The Corpse Flower, however, is the largest unbranched inflorescence (flower spike) with a record specimen reaching over 10.5 feet tall. This inflorescence is made up of dozens of tiny, petal-less flowers arranged at the bottom of the central spadix. Female flowers open first to receive pollen from another Corpse Flower in bloom in the forest. They then shrivel and become unreceptive to pollen before the male flowers open. The male flowers will then release their pollen to be carried to a different Corpse Flower.
We have also reached a new milestone! Scarlett is just beginning to put some color on that ruffled spathe. Now that the spathe is turning its signature crimson color, we could be expecting a bloom in less than a week. Be sure not to blink or you might miss the opportunity to come to see (and smell!) this rare plant in full bloom. Stay tuned!
Today’s growth measures in at 67 inches. We are only 3 inches away from topping our tallest Corpse Flower on record, Terra the Titan, back in 2017. Progress photos below:
May 25, 2019:
As you may know, many flowering plants require a pollinator to move pollen from one flower to another. Most plants in our daily lives use familiar pollinators such as bees, butterflies, or birds to get the job done but not this quirky individual. With its peak bloom near midnight, the smells are released to call in pollinators such as beetles and flies, those who enjoy the pungent aroma of rotting flesh, to facilitate the movement of the all-important pollen. While it is unknown how far away insects may be able to detect the stench, humans can smell the odor from nearly a mile away in the dense forests of Sumatra. Today the growth measures at 59 inches. We are now seeing one of the two remaining leaf-like bracts is beginning to fall away. Yet another sign that Scarlett is moving ever closer to that auspicious moment of bloom! Enjoy a few new progress photos below and come in to see for yourself. Open today from 10-6.
May 21, 2019:
Today we can see much more of the ruffled spathe visible with a beautiful fade to green as you move down the plant. The bloom now measures at 47.5 inches tall which is an incredible 8.5 inches increase from our last blog post. Here are a few progress photos so you can see just how much Scarlett has grown!
May 17, 2019:
Wow, how this plant can grow! We are now able to see the spathe of Scarlett the Titan. From our best estimate, this gives us anywhere from 10-14 days until peak bloom. We will be sure to post updates on the progress of this stinky friend so you can be here at just the right moment! The bloom currently measures 39 inches adding 2 inches from yesterday’s post.
May 16, 2019:
Introducing Scarlett the Titan!
We have exciting news to share with everyone! We are now able to see the central part of the bloom known as the spadix. This confirms for our horticulture staff that this bud is indeed developing a bloom and not a new leaf. Over the next days, we will be looking for the ruffled spathe. The spathe is a modified leaf or bract that initially protects the developing bloom. Once the bud is fully developed this spathe will open at just the right moment when the flowers at the base of the spadix are ready to be pollinated. Today the bloom measures at 37 inches. Stay tuned here for regular updates!
May 14, 2019:
What’s this?! One of our Amorphophallus titanum specimens is coming out of dormancy and putting on some new growth. At this point it is far too early to predict whether it’s a bloom or a leaf, but what do you think?
Today the new growth measures 37 inches tall which is a 1.25 inches increase from yesterday. Stay tuned to this page for more amazing facts about the Corpse Flower.
Amor the Arum
On September 5, 2018, Amor the Arum bloomed at the Conservatory of Flowers.
September 5, 2018: Amor the Arum made their debut for potential pollinators last night, and we had a wonderful showing for peak stink! We love our guests! This inflorescence continues to stink today, so swing by to take in the smell of dead-rat-in-the-wall 🙂
The Corpse Flower is actually an arrangement of hundreds of flowers, arranged at the bottom of the tall yellow spadix, protected by that beautiful cabernet-colored spathe. About half the flowers are female and half are male. The female flowers open on the first night, ready for beetle pollinators to bring pollen from visits to other Corpse Flowers.
As we don’t have live beetles already dusted with Corpse Flower pollen, we appointed the next best thing: horticulturist Mario, a brush, and a vial of pollen. Where did we get this pollen? We worked with our compatriots down at The Huntington in Pasadena, who were kind enough to share fresh pollen from their recent Corpse Flower blooms.
Before applying the pollen, Mario checked the viability of the female flowers by looking for stigmas that were yellow and slightly sticky. The flowers proved to be receptive, at which point Mario picked up the pollen with a custom-made brush, gently reaching into the center of the bloom and applying it to the female flowers. Fingers crossed that this pollination event was successful! Stay tuned for future fruit developments.
September 3, 2018: It’s official! This morning’s measurements are in and Amor is now taller than Suma at bloom time. We are still seeing a continued darkening of the spathe as we are approaching that smelly moment! Here is the measurement and some more photos:
Height: 57.5 inches
September 1, 2018: Amor is reaching the same height Suma was! Here is the measurement for today:
Height: 56 inches
August 30, 2018: The votes are in and after all of the fantastic submissions we have chosen to name this bloom Amor the Arum! At this point the protective leaf-like bracts have fallen away and the ruffled spathe is starting to show its deep maroon tint. Here is the measurement for today:
Height: 54 inches
Change in height since yesterday: 2 inches
August 26, 2018: Our unnamed Corpse Flower continues to develop quickly. Here are our measurements for today:
Height: 49 inches
Change in height since yesterday: 2 inches
August 24, 2018: This Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum, is currently unnamed and a sibling to Suma, the Corpse Flower that bloomed just one month ago. Our skilled horticulture staff have nurtured this plant into its first bloom at age 10 years. Suma’s bloom was an olfactory experience like no other- we are excited to offer our guests another opportunity to witness this bloom.
Today’s height measurement is 45 inches.
Suma the Titan
July 27, 2018: Today is a bittersweet day, as Suma the Titan begins to senesce after putting on such a wonderful show for all of us. In photos taken around 9:30 am the spadix is still standing tall, however around 11:00 am our fantastic interpretive intern Brandon was lucky enough to observe the collapse of the spadix.
“Is this really happening?” says Brandon of the suddenness of the collapse.
The bloom of a Corpse Flower is such an ephemeral event. Suma the Titan opened as a bloom around 2:00 pm on Sunday July 22 and today, five days later, has begun to collapse. What’s next for Suma the Titan? This plant will be left in place for the moment. The horticulture staff will remove any deceased portions of the bloom and will ensure that the powerhouse of this species, the corm, is maintained in good health.
July 24, 2018: Whew! What a whirlwind of a couple days. We’ve hosting thousands of excited visitors and Suma the Titan was there to welcome everyone. Our guests voted on what their olfactory experience was and the most popular choice was compost heap, followed by stinky cheese and smelly socks.
Today we are at day three for this bloom, and while the olfactory impact is not as intense, the bloom is still a gorgeous sight to behold.
July 22, 2018: Tonight’s the night. We are officially at Bloom O’Clock! Today around 2:00 pm we noticed that Suma the Titan has decided to make their debut to the world, in their stinkiest form. This fabulous inflorescence has begun to open, with the spathe pulling away from the spadix. Soon the Conservatory of Flowers will be enveloped with the sweet scent of rotting corpses, as Suma the Titan beckons all potential pollinators.
Today, Sunday July 22, we will be open for extended hours, with the last entry at 9:30 pm.
Monday, July 23, open hours will be 10:00 am – 10:00 pm.
Please join us in celebrating this wonder of the natural world, Suma the Titan.
July 21, 2018: Is it Bloom O’Clock yet? The folks at the Conservatory of Flowers have been waiting with bated breath for Suma the Titan to showcase their full spectacular self. It is slightly like waiting for a baby to arrive…will it be today?
Here’s what I can tell you:
Color: the spathe is flushing even more with its lovely garnet color.
Height: today it measured a full 56 inches, so it has grown a bit.
Circumference at its widest: today it measured at 41.25 inches, its widest yet.
Circumference at the base: today it measured at 11.75 inches, less than its peak of 14 inches on on July 14
It’s a foggy day here in Golden Gate Park so if you’re outside of the fog belt and feeling the need for love from Karl the fog, swing by the Conservatory of Flowers and check on Suma the Titan!
July 19, 2019: Big update! Suma the Titan did not gain any height overnight, since their measurement at 8:00pm yesterday. This is Suma’s first slowdown in growth. This cue suggests that the bloom is imminent. Today’s measurements at 9:45 am:
Height: 54 inches
Circumference: 38.75 inches
Also, check out this beautiful flush of color. Things are looking nice here in the Conservatory of Flowers!
July 18, 2018: Upon checking Suma this morning, we noticed that the spathe is flushing even more with a beautiful garnet color. Wow this plant is just incredible! Here are today’s measurements:
Height: 53 inches
Circumference: 38 inches
This bloom is imminent. Typically it opens in the late afternoon, so the moment we observe it opening we will keep you updated.
July 17, 2018: Suma the Titan is getting closer and closer to their moment to shine. Today the maroonish flush of color continues to develop on the spathe. Another cue we are keeping an eye on is the senescence and falling away of the protective bract, which can be seen in the first photo. This bloom is imminent within the next several days!
What’s in the stink? This plant is called a Corpse Flower for a reason – it is infamously smelly. But what exactly is going on at a chemical level? Researchers have found that there are several chemical component that will be produced by Suma the Titan to create its infamous scent:
dymethyl trisulfide: the smells of rotting onions & stinky cheese
isovaleric acid: the smell of sweaty socks
trimethylamine: the smell of rotting fish
methyl thiolacetate: the smell of cheesy garlic
Combine these chemical components at various stages and the deep aroma of rotting meat emanates from this plant. It’s a smell to behold and an opportunity that few people get to experience in person. The Conservatory of Flowers is absolutely thrilled to share this fantastic botanical experience with our community. Come visit us and experience this magical olfactory wonder for yourself!
July 16, 2018: We are beginning to approach count-down time! Based on the cues this plant is giving us, we anticipate Suma the Titan is just days away from blooming (!!!!). As of the most recent measurement, we are at 49 inches in height and 35 inches in circumference. Keep your eyes on the live webcam to see the latest developments.
Check out the strange structure we are measuring in the first photo…this misshapen phalic structure is how this genus received its name: Amorphophallus. In botanical terms, this structure is called the spadix and it is on the lower sections of the spadix where the many individual flowers develop. The spadix, together with the spathe, form what is called an inflorescence. While it looks like one giant Corpse Flower, in reality this plant produces this inflorescence that supports a large number of smaller, less showy flowers. A comparison would be a calla lily, which can be found in many California gardens.
Starting today we are open for extended hours to give each and every one of you the opportunity to experience this botanical treat at the Conservatory of Flowers.
Monday July 16 we are open 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tuesday July 17 – Sunday July 22 we are open 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Last tickets are sold at 9:30 pm.
We hope to see you here at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park!
July 14, 2018: It’s another foggy morning in Golden Gate Park and the sun is slightly pushing through. But inside the Conservatory of Flowers there are perfect growing conditions for our Corpse Flower, Suma the Titan.
Today at 10:08 a.m. Suma the Titan was 46″ in height and 33.5″ in circumference. We also noticed that there is a slight color change to the inside of the spathe. Additionally, the outer bracts continue to pull away. What does this all mean? These are some of the slight changes in Suma the Titan that we look for and record to help give us a better understanding of the cycle of this bloom.
Suma the Titan is known as Amorphophallus titanum in the botanical and horticultural worlds. There are over 80 species of Amorphophallus, some quite small, some pretty massive. They are found throughout the warmer and wetter parts of Asia. Our largest species, Amorphophallus titanum, is found growing naturally in the rainforests of Sumatra, one of the many islands in the Indonesian archipelago. In 1878, one year before the Conservatory of Flowers opened, this plant was first encountered by Western botanists. Since then, this species has captured people’s imagination as the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence. Does it capture yours? Swing by and see for yourself!
July 13, 2018: What better way to celebrate Friday the 13th than to delve into the stinkiest of the stinky plants: the Corpse Flower aka Amorphophallus titanum! Our gorgeous Corpse Flower, Suma the Titan, continues to grow in both height and circumference. Today’s 9:45 AM measurement is 44″ in height, a difference of 2″ since yesterday at 4:10 pm. As this bloom continues to develop, the plant is putting lots of energy and resources into one specific goal: reproduction.
Flowers are all about exchanging genes and the Corpse Flower has developed two important characteristics that help it attract insect pollinators: a carrion-like odor and the ability to produce heat. Today let’s chat briefly on thermogenesis, the ability of a living organism to produce heat. For mammals like us, this is no big deal, it’s what we do. However, the ability to produce heat is unusual in the plant world.
What researchers have discovered is that the Corpse Flower will begin to produce heat in the early evening and can heat up to 100.4 F by midnight. What’s the benefit of this heat production? To attract pollinators, who may come for the smell, but stay for the party (heat & comfort). In its natural habitat the Corpse Flower has been observed hosting multiple insect species that spend extra time in the bloom, resting up and hopefully pollinating the plant.
Here are some photos taken this morning. Apologies for the poor light…it’s a foggy morning in San Francisco!
July 11, 2018: Suma has given us enough cues to make a prediction! Given that the spadix and spathe have emerged, we are predicting that this bloom will open up next week. Be prepared for a certain someone (hmmm…Suma!) to get real stinky next week.
We will host extended hours on the day Suma opens and blooms, and for several days after. Corpse Flowers typically begin opening in the late afternoon and the moment we see cues that action is about to take place, we will announce on our social media.
How much has Suma grown?
In the past 24 hours, Suma has grown by 3 inches in height and is now at 39 inches total. I remember growing fast as a teenager but can you even imagine 3 inches in 24 hours? The reserves this plant has in its corm to support this type of growth is impressive indeed. Now for the best part….today’s photos:
July 10, 2018: So much is happening! This lovely Corpse Flower is continuing to grow.
First, the Conservatory of Flowers is thrilled to introduce the name of this plant: Suma the Titan. Suma means “born in the summer” in English and “flower” in Sanskrit. It also is a nod to the island this species is native to- Sumatra in the Indonesian archipelago.
For our other update, check out this photo taken at 1:09 pm on July 10, 2018:
This inflorescence is now showing its characteristic spadix and spathe! These are the two primary structures that are visible with this bloom. The tall center piece is the spadix while the green scrunchy material surrounding it will open up as the spathe.
July 6, 2018: Man alive this plant just keeps growing! Today’s height measures at 34.75″. At its widest point, this bud is now 21.25″ in circumference. We are getting excited here!!
July 3, 2018: Happy day- we have a bloom! All indications are that the new growth on this plant will develop into an inflorescence! Today’s height measures at 31.25 inches.
June 28 – July 1, 2018: Grew from 21.75 inches in height to 27 inches in height.
What makes the titan arum so special?
The titan arum is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world – typically 6-8 feet tall. It emits a foul odor of rotting animal flesh, thus the common name of corpse flower. The plant also produces the largest leaf in the world reaching up to 20 feet high.
Why does the bloom stink?
The scent is a deception device that tricks pollinators into thinking the plant is rotting organic matter. These pollinators – carrion beetles and flies – lay eggs on decaying animals so their larva can feast when they hatch. The bloom heats up on the first evening to further disperse the odor.
Is the bloom a flower?
The titan arum is not the largest flower in the world – that title goes to the Rafflesia arnoldii. The titan arum is the largest unbranched inflorescence, which is a structure composed of many individual flowers. Hundreds of small flowers line the base of the spadix and are protected by a ruffled modified leaf called a spathe. Female flowers open a day before the male flowers, which is how the plant avoids self-pollination. Scarlet fruits develop from the pollinated female flowers. The fruits attract birds that eat them and disperse the seeds.
What is the lifecycle of the titan arum?
The seed grows into a small leaf with an underground corm, similar to a potato. After a year, the leaf dies back and the plant goes into dormancy for months. The plant goes through years of these dormancy and leaf cycles. Meanwhile, sugars made in the leaf are transported back to the corm, which continues to grow larger. Finally, 7-10 years later, the plant has stored enough energy to bloom. The inflorescence takes about a month to mature and is only open and pungent for two days before the spadix withers and collapses. Another bloom might occur in 3 or more years, until then the leaf and dormancy cycle continues. Usually, only one structure – either a leaf or a flower – emerges from a tuber during each cycle.
Where is the titan arum native to?
It grows on steep hillsides in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. The Indonesian name for titan arum is bunga bangkai, which translates to “corpse flower” in English.