Take time to smell the corpse flower

The meaning of the title still applies, despite the repulsive odor that the titan arum, or “corpse flower” emits. I wasn’t going to bother making the 40 minute trek out to the UC Davis conservatory to see this flower, even though they had extended their hours until midnight for the blooming. It seemed like more work than it was worth, especially since the end result was most likely going to be cramming into a conservatory reeking of rotting flesh with a crowd of other people who read about the rare bloom in progress in the Sacramento Bee that morning.

A friend in Minnesota shared that a corpse flower near her was going to bloom soon and she was curious about it. I had already read about the UC Davis one starting to bloom, and stuck to my flimsy excuse and added that I’m sensitive to smells so it sounded fairly unappealing.

This is exactly the type of thinking that keeps a person from doing. Its not healthy and it certainly doesn’t add any spice to life.

The weakness of my excuses were starting to weigh on me, and the estimated peak bloom time of 8:30pm had not yet arrived. During dinner, I decide to mention the event to Trillian, to at least pass along the interestingness of it. Trill’s eyes lit up and she asked if we could go. Which involved many pleases. The words that she used that sealed the deal were, “I just want to experience it, even if its disgusting, so I’ll know.”

How could I turn that down? My ten-year-old is begging to go to a plant conservatory to witness a rare flower. I’d be nuts to sit at home and pass this up.

I made a quick call to our adventures-of-the-strange-and-unusual partner, Wednesday. She didn’t even hesitate, she gave a resounding yes (I need to learn from her). I grabbed the camera (and the wrong lens, dammit), a pair of Chucks, Wirehed and the kid, and we ran out the door a little before 8:30pm.

We arrived at UC Davis around 9:15pm, found parking right next to the conservatory, and walked right in to see the flower in all its stinky glory. The stalk hadn’t heated up yet, which is when it gives off the most powerful smell. But, if you were within 3 feet of the flower, you had a clear whiff of death. The flower was much larger than I expected, and prettier, too.

Check out my photo gallery of the evening, which includes photos of other plants that caught my fancy.

The lighting in the conservatory, coupled with the excitement surrounding the special blooming event, made for a near magical atmosphere. The lighting was certainly beneficial for photography. I’m just sorry I grabbed a mediocre lens (28-200mm kit lens) instead of the 60mm Uncle Ted gave us. That lens could have produced poster-worthy shots.

There were some fascinating plants there. The conservatory offers a 45 minute tour for a small fee, so we are planning on going back to learn more. Trill had a great time pointing out all the unusual leaves and flowers. She is excited about the tour as well.

See photo gallery here.

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