Has the UCSC corpse flower bloomed? Not yet, but it’s close

The corpse flower prepares to bloom at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
The corpse flower prepares to bloom at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum on Wednesday. It’s expected to bloom Thursday night or Friday night this week.
(Hillary Ojeda / Lookout Santa Cruz)

For more than a week, the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum has been informing the public about its corpse flower’s progress, as it’s expected to bloom for the first time since it was planted 10 years ago. On Thursday evening, arboretum director Martin Quigley said it might bloom Saturday or Sunday — unleashing the dreadful smell that gives it its nickname. It typically blooms for about 24 hours before it begins disintegrating.

Update: Grab a flashlight — The corpse flower was beginning to bloom as of early Friday evening. It will be dark at the UCSC Arboretum for those who make it out Friday night to experience the flower’s infamous decaying-meat stench. Get the latest details here.

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Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Visitors to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum on Wednesday morning looked in awe at the corpse flower — which has yet to bloom and emit its horrible stench — and asked questions about how often it blooms and what pollinators it attracts.

“They put out a very powerful scent to attract the night-flying — mostly flies and some beetles — all the insects that want to lay their eggs on decaying meat,” UCSC Arboretum Director Martin Quigley told one. “They’re attracted to this powerful stench that is like a dead cow in your living room with a layer of s--- and then some vomit and dead fish.”

The plant’s bloom typically starts opening in the late afternoon or evening, and on the day it blooms, the arboretum will stay open until 11 p.m. to give folks a chance to see it. Quigley suggests bringing a flashlight. Lookout is on the lookout, and we’ll keep you updated.

To stay further up to date on the flower’s bloom, follow the arboretum’s social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

To visit the arboretum, located at 1 Arboretum Road, drive up High Street about a half-mile past the main campus entrance. The gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during regular business hours. For more information on visiting, click here.

The UCSC Arboretum doesn’t receive funding from the university and is dependent on donations and admission fees for income, according to Quigley.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and older and $5 for youth ages 6-17.

More on the plant

Also known as a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), the corpse flower is expected to bloom every three years or so after its initial bloom, Quigley said. This is the first time this particular plant will bloom.

After it was started from seed at UC Davis, it arrived at UCSC in 2012. Since then, Jim Velzy and Sylvia Childress, the former and current directors, respectively, of the UCSC Greenhouses, have been tending to it in the greenhouse facilities. There, the plant enjoys a tropical environment that it needs, similar to its native Sumatra, Indonesia.

Each year since it started growing, it has grown a single large leaf that resembles a tree. When the underground stem, called a corm, stores sufficient energy and grows to about 35 pounds, the corpse flower is ready to bloom. It typically blooms for about 24 hours before it begins disintegrating.

This is a developing story; check back updates as the stinky plant evolves!

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