- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The stench of the blooming corpse flower attracts carrion-loving insects and birds in the wilds of Western Sumatra, but in the District only tourists. Playing Pokemon Go.

Hundreds of people waited 30 minutes in line at the U.S. Botanical Garden Tuesday to witness the rare peak bloom of the 7-foot-tall flower and to get a whiff of its infamous reek.

“I was at dinner last night and saw that it would be blooming today,” said visitor Aurelia Lyman, of Massachusetts. “I thought it’d be fun to come see if it smells as bad as people say.”

The stench did not disappoint Ms. Lyman, who had braved the large crowd with her friend Stephanie Duke, a D.C.-area resident.

The size of the crowd surprised staffers at the Botanical Garden almost as much as the actual blooming of the 6-year-old towering flower, which is related to the calla lily. Most corpse flowers (Titan arum) blossom at 7 to 10 years of age.

To meet the demand of the large crowd, the conservatory for the first time extended its hours to 11 p.m. Tuesday to ensure as many people as possible had a chance to experience it.

More than 130,000 people came to see a corpse flower in 2013, the last time one bloomed at the conservatory.

“I think we’ll easily reach that same number over the course of showing this plant and maybe even surpass it,” said Devin Dotson, a public affairs specialist at the Botanical Garden.

Mr. Dotson said that corpse flowers often have a mind of their own, clearly seen in this case. Most of these plants bloom in the evening, but this flower shocked staff by starting its bloom early Tuesday.

Botanists are working through several hypotheses to explain why the flower bloomed in the morning and at such a young age. Being outside of its native environment and under constant light is a likely reason, said Mr. Dotson.

Over the past several decades, the U.S. Botanical Garden has displayed five other corpse flowers, each of which was met with enthusiastic crowds excited to breathe in the nasty odor.

Corpse flowers typically stay open for 24 to 48 hours. The staff at the garden have high hopes that this flower will have a lengthy bloom.

But a long bloom does not mean an unending stink. The plant emits its pungent smell for only a short time, so anyone now seeking a selfie with corpse flower will do so without the scent.

Several visitors expressed surprise at seeing so many people out to see a “ridiculous flower.” One was overheard saying she had “smelled worse.” A garden volunteer told visitors the flower smelled like a garbage truck that she drove past earlier in the day.

Luckily for Vienna resident Pat Levins, the stink was in the air when she brought her granddaughter Margaret to the garden Tuesday afternoon. The 11-year-old was “curious to see how big the flower was and how bad it smelled.”



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