The 4 to 5-foot Amorphophallus titanium flower, also known as the "corpse flower," began its 48-hour-long bloom on Sunday afternoon.
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The giant flower is known for not only its rarity at just a couple hundred in the world, but for its short bloom period and extraordinarily stinky scent.
"It can smell like stinky tuna, tuna mixed with some old moldy cheese and old socks. Gym socks with the sweat of humans enclosed in it," describes Josephine Ortiz, a Jungle Guide at the Conservatory.
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The stench of the flower is to attract pollinators. Unlike roses and more common flowers, the rare Sumatran plant attracts in a different way.
"It wants to smell like meat to attract those pollinators, so this flower has learned to evolve over a million or so years to attract flies to pollinate," says Matthew Stephens, the Conservatory director.
“It smells strongly of decaying tuna 🐟 fish...a decomposing sandwich 🥪 w/stinky cheese 🧀 “ — woman describing the corpse flower’s smelly 👃🏿 scent! (Hah 😆 my face!) @SFConservatory pic.twitter.com/M8pfo2SaQx— Dion Lim (@DionLimTV) July 23, 2018
At about 5 feet tall, this particular corpse flower is nicknamed Suma, an ode to its "sumo" size. Last year, the Conservatory was graced by another blooming Amorphophallus, which was even larger, standing about 6 feet tall, named Terra.
Suma the Titan fans come from as far away as Germany and China but have been on "corpse flower watch," monitoring the enormous flower for months. Some go to extreme lengths to capture the memory of the rare occasion.
Desmond Kamas clutches a small plastic zip-top bag in his hand. "My sister couldn't make it, but she was excited about the stinky flower so she thought that I would be able to capture the scent for her."
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A little boy waits in line with his dad and exclaims, "I'm hoping it smells like a dead body...yeah!"
A mother and daughter duo drove over three hours round trip to experience the flower.
"We wanted to see Terra last year and we missed it by a week. When we saw this one was blooming, we said we weren't going to miss it or we'd miss it for another 10 years," the duo laughs.
Mark McHugh of San Francisco has been a Conservatory fan for many years and hung out with Suma in its humid temperature-controlled environment for more than an hour and a half.
"It's so hot in here, I think it's me that smells, actually. Why not experience it while you can? It's like playland," he said.
The Conservatory of Flowers is open for extended viewing hours until 10 p.m. all week, with last admission at 9:30 p.m.
Click here for more information about Suma the Titan.
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