corpse flower
© unknown
Thousands of visitors have flocked to the Huntington Botanical Gardens today to see the brief bloom of a corpse flower, a plant famous for its rotting smell and its rare flowering, which happens once every few years or more.

The last time the corpse flower bloomed at the gardens in San Marino was in 2002, and the last time before that was in 1999 -- the first recorded bloom in California's history. Many have been monitoring the Huntington flower's progression in recent days. Once the bloom was announced Tuesday at 2 p.m., the deluge began.

If you want to see it, act quickly. The flower has begun to close. Its petals, which were outstretched this morning, are now ruffled, said Lisa Blackburn, a spokeswoman for the gardens. The flower will close in the next day or two, and botanists do not know when it will bloom again.

"It's a very brief and very beautiful and very smelly moment at the same time," Blackburn said. "It might be done for the next decade."

The flower is native to the rain forests of Sumatra island, in western Indonesia, and though it is nicknamed the corpse flower because of its smell, its shape inspired its official name: Amorphophallus titanum, which roughly translates to "large, shapeless phallus," Blackburn said.