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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lucky You! SFSU Corpse Flower Has Yet To Emit Its Signature Noxious Stench -- So Viewing Hours Have Been Extended!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge It's a stinker -- and it's late - U.S. BOTANICAL GARDEN
  • U.S. Botanical Garden
  • It's a stinker -- and it's late
San Francisco State greenhouse manager Martin Grantham reports that several hundred people have dropped by his muggy domain in the past several days -- but were sorely disappointed the place didn't stink like the fart depository.

That's because, as we've noted before, SFSU's 14-year-old corpse flower is in its last stages before bursting into its first odious bloom; the native Indonesian plants bloom rarely and erratically. Like volcanologists, those who predict exactly when corpse flowers are ready to get their stench on sometimes err; Grantham says a U.C. Davis expert saw photos of the SFSU plant on Wednesday and said that since "colors have began showing" it was ready to bloom within four days. That hasn't happened -- but, unlike volcanology, mistakes don't lead to horrifying deaths beneath floes of red-hot magma or asphyxiation via noxious fumes.

Grantham says he's offered miffed visitors a whiff of his small stapelia plant -- a fly-pollinated South African species that also emits a smell reminiscent of rotting flesh. But that's akin to showing up at the amusement park to ride the Giant Dipper and settling for the bumper cars.

So, being that he's a good sport, Grantham has decided to extend the public viewing hours for the corpse flower. You can drop by the SFSU greenhouse -- gratis -- today from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. At the very worst you'll get a lungful of the stapelia stink, but, if you're lucky, you may be one of the first to ever smell the SFSU corpse plant's reek.

The greenhouse is just north of Hensill Hall on the SFSU campus. You can find it here -- or, with luck, follow your nose, like Toucan Sam.

Incidentally, when asked how long corpse plants lived, Grantham said that all depends on how competent the horticulturalist taking care of it is. It's virtually impossible to chart the age of the plant -- unlike trees, there's no rings of bark -- and scientists only recently figured out that the plants don't die following their rare blooms (though they are hugely depleted and very vulnerable). When pressed to give us a life expectancy, he would only say "open-ended."

So this stinker will could be around for a while -- but it could be decades before it stinks again.

Photo   |   United States Botanical Garden

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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