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SF's famed 'corpse flower' is in bloom — and you can visit it safely

Photo: SF Conservatory of Flowers/Instagram
By Camden Avery - Published on August 18, 2020.

One of the horticultural treasures at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is the amorphophallus titanium, or corpse flower. Native to Sumatra, it's the largest unbranched flower in the world, reaching up to 10 feet high. 

The flower takes seven to 10 years to bloom for the first time, and only blooms again every three to five years after that. And after those years of waiting, the plant's flower — which has the scent of rotting flesh — only lasts for a matter of days, making the bloom a horticultural event.

Despite the challenges of social distancing, the Conservatory isn't going to let a good bloom go to waste. 

The plant has been moved to the Conservatory's front atrium, so that visitors can drop by to see it even as the rest of the facility remains closed to the public. It's displayed behind an acrylic window, with slits and fans carefully arranged to push the flower's scent out into the open air.

This particular corpse flower, known as "Terra the Titan," last bloomed in 2017. Originally purchased from a plant sale at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Terra came to the Conservatory in 2014 after a few years in the Mission District bathroom of a private collector.

For those who prefer to stay close to home, the Conservatory is also offering ways to see Terra in action from a distance.

Regular updates are going out this week on Instagram and Facebook, and the Conservatory is also screening the bloom live on YouTube, with special presentations from Conservatory staff today and tomorrow at noon and 7 p.m. 

Terra the Titan in real time. | Video: SF Conservatory of Flowers

But if you'd prefer to see (and smell) Terra in its full glory, socially distanced visiting hours are today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Admission is free, but consider making a donation to help the Conservatory care for Terra and the other flowers in the years to come.

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