Stinky and alluring, this rare ‘corpse flower’ is about to bloom

The blooming corpse flower, named Mirage, was gifted to the Academy by the Conservatory of Flowers in 2017. (Tim Wong/California Academy of Sciences via Bay City News)

A popular, albeit repulsive, attraction at the California Academy of Sciences is making an earlier than usual appearance this year.

The Academy’s resident corpse flower, Mirage, is expected to bloom sometime between Feb. 25-29. The bloom, a rare and smelly event, lasts one to three days and draws extra visitors to the science museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

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

According to the Cal Academy, corpse flowers are related to peace lilies, Monstera, Anthuriums, and Philodendrons. They are native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and are listed as endangered — fewer than 1000 remain in their original habitat.

The timing of the bloom is unusual and the plant has just reached average age of maturity for blooming.

The corpse flower cam at California Academy of Sciences lets viewers see the flower’s progress toward blooming in real time.

“Because of the tremendous energy needed to flower, Mirage may never bloom again or will take an additional two to three years to produce another flower,” according to the Academy.

The corpse flower has been under the care of horticulturists at Steinhart Aquarium for the past five years. It was gifted to the Academy by the Conservatory of Flowers in 2017.

Mirage is currently on exhibit in Osher Rainforest, which opens at 10 a.m. Monday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. on Sundays. Last entry is at 4:30 pm daily. 

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