With the deep red color and stench of rotten meat, a rare Amorphophallus titanum is set to bloom next week at the Conservatory of Flowers. The horticulturists estimate that it will happen between June 13 and 15, but this malodorous blossom keeps its own counsel. Already four feet in length even though it’s still only a bud, the flower might extend somewhere between six and eight feet — and the institution will extend its viewing hours to accommodate curious onlookers (and any after-hours insects that want to pollinate it).
“Terra the Titan,” as its known, came into the Conservatory’s possession in 2014 after it — along with two others — grew too large for the Mission bathroom that had been its home. When owner Sidney Price couldn’t really use his own shower, he knew it was time to give it up.
“They were yellowish, spindly things when I bought them, but still, I had to have them,” Price told the Conservatory staff at the time. “These beautiful plants are getting destroyed in their native habitat. It was worth trying to grow them, and my bathroom, it turns out, was perfect!”
Terra’s bud emerged on May 1, and it’s been growing at the rate of one to three inches per day. You can track its development via the Conservatory’s Facebook, Instagram (@ConservatoryofFlowers), and Twitter (@SFConservatory). Normally closed Mondays, the Conservatory will be open June 12 and June 19, staying open until 8:30 p.m. June 13-18. (These times may change as the dates draw near.)
The Amorphophallus titanum grows in the rainforests on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, and it looks like it was sent by a race of sentient plants to colonize Earth. A relative of the calla lily and the cuckoo pint that can grow to nine feet, it’s the largest flower in the world, and its unpleasant aroma is an evolutionary adaptation meant to attract beetles that feast on carrion, in order to help pollinate it. Even in the wild, these flowers bloom rarely, so when a cultivated specimen flowers, it’s even more exciting — especially for fans of rotting fish, sweaty socks, human feces, Limburger cheese, and everything else that goes into its rich smell.
Terra the Titan, scheduled to bloom sometime around June 13-15, at the Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, Golden Gate Park, conservatoryofflowers.org