Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Achievement Unlocked: Saw a Corpse Flower

 One of the items on my bucket list has long been to experience a blooming corpse flower in person.  And this weekend, I finally got my chance!

The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers announced last week that their corpse flower, Scarlet, had put out a bud and was going to bloom sometime in the following week.  Corpse flowers only bloom once every several years (and Scarlet hasn't bloomed in about three).  Corpse flowers have the biggest flower in the world, and it only lasts about 48 hours before it collapses.  They get their name from the rancid smell of the flower, which people describe as rotting meat.  The smell is strongest at the very beginning of the bloom opening.

I checked in on Scarlet's live stream every few hours over the weekend, and went to work on Monday disappointed she hadn't yet opened up.  When I came home, I discovered she'd finally bloomed, and I immediately hustled my family into the car to go see her.  It's a testament to Andrew's accommodating nature that, when I shrieked "SHE BLOOMED!" and demanded we all go immediately into the city to see her, he didn't even question it.

Scarlet's bloom came at an inopportune time.  Calvin had been sick all weekend with a fever, and both Andrew and I had worked during the day, so we were tired and it was late.  But we got into a line and waited over two hours to go see Scarlet.  The general atmosphere of the line was jovial, because everyone there was excited for a rare experience.  I had brought some tequila (and I wasn't the only one), and the line had the air of a party.

By the time we got into the Conservatory, it was night, and we were among the very last to be admitted.  It was already after hours, and we entered around 9:30 p.m., into a dark and muggy greenhouse labyrinth.  At this point, Calvin, who had mostly been sitting quietly in his stroller, was completely knocked out, and unfortunately he missed the strange, liminal beauty of the mostly-empty greenhouse.

It was almost another hour before we got to Scarlet, but we knew we were there when the smell hit us.

Was it bad?  Oh yes.  It was putrid in a way that defies description.  It was so thick you could taste it.  I was reminded a little bit of the taste of durian fruit, but this was so much worse.  Like meat that someone had tried to make appetizing by sprinkling garlic onto, except the garlic had also gone bad.


It was an amazing experience.  10/10, would gag again.