Corpse flower bloom at UCSC ‘not progressing,’ officials say; timing reset for Saturday afternoon — or later

A corpse flower enthusiast goes in for a sniff.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

False alarm: The corpse flower is now predicted to bloom Saturday afternoon, keeping its infamous decaying-meat stench away from enthusiasts for another day. Officials revised the timing after crowds gathered at the UCSC Arboretum on Friday evening, only to witness the plant still in its scrunched-up state.

Update: Corpse flower enthusiasts will have to wait a bit longer for an actual bloom — Saturday afternoon or later — according to Arboretum officials. “The flower is not progressing,” the organization said in an Instagram post Friday night. "... with this trickster, we aren’t sure about anything!” Check back for updates throughout the weekend.

Previous update:

The corpse flower at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum is expected to fully bloom Friday night, and staff said as of early Friday evening, it was already emitting its horrendous stench.

UCSC greenhouse staff have been tending to the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) on the campus since 2013. This is the first time this particular flower will bloom. Following this event, it will now be able to bloom every three to four years.

The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum said the corpse flower's spadix had reached a temperature of 90 degrees
The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum said the corpse flower’s spadix had reached a temperature of 90 degrees and started to give off a smell early Friday evening.
(Via UCSC Arboretum)

When the flower blooms, it emits a stench that arboretum Director Martin Quigley describes as a “dead cow in your living room with a layer of s--- and then some vomit and dead fish.” The stench attracts pollinators like flies and beetles that are seeking to lay their eggs on decaying meat. The flower blooms for about 24 hours and then begins to collapse.

Quigley said the arboretum would stay open Friday night until 11 p.m. to allow the public to experience the bloom.

He recommended people bring flashlights and good walking shoes. The center has a very small parking lot, so if possible, walk, ride a bike or take a bus.

The arboretum first started posting on its Instagram about the plant on July 14. On July 16, it said it expected the corpse flower “to fully bloom in the coming days.” Fast-forward two weeks and hundreds of frantic and excited Instagram and Facebook comments later, and nature prevails.

Jim Velzy and Sylvia Childress, the former and current directors of the UCSC Greenhouses, respectively, have been maintaining it in the greenhouse facilities. The plant, native to Sumatra, Indonesia, needs a tropical environment in order to thrive.

Each year since it started germinating, the corpse flower has grown a single large leaf that resembles a tree. It can only reach a blooming stage when the underground stem, called a corm, stores sufficient energy and grows to about 35 pounds.

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Livestream of the corpse flower bloom at UCSC’s Arboretum

How to visit the UCSC Arboretum

The entrance to the UCSC Arboretum & Botanic Garden is located on the east side of High Street about a half-mile past the main campus entrance (use the address “1 Arboretum Road” for GPS and mobile routing devices).

During regular hours, the gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but it will stay open on Friday night until 11 p.m. More information about visiting the UCSC Arboretum is available online at arboretum.ucsc.edu/visit.

What about visiting on Saturday morning?

The arboretum is hosting Raptor Day Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., so regular admission won’t begin until the event concludes at 1 p.m. Tickets for Raptor Day are available on the day of the event and are only available in-person. For more information, click here.

Martin Quigley, director of UC Santa Cruz’s Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, addresses a crowd
Martin Quigley, director of UC Santa Cruz’s Arboretum & Botanic Gardens takes the corpse flower’s temperature Friday evening.

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

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