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Rare Corpse Flower On Display At Sac State

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The corpse flower at Sacramento State blooms for just 72 hours every 10 to 20 years.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Visitors scrunch their noses as they follow red tape leading to the giant corpse lily on display at Sacramento State University.

The flower is blooming for the first time in 20 years inside the "Living Gallery" in Sequoia Hall room 105. 

Viewers put one hand over their nose, or pull their shirt across their face, with their other hand they snap photos with their phone.

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Phon Barnard comes to see the corpse flower with her coworker on a break. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The audience describes the smell like: grandma's musty attic, a rendering plant, or an armadillo rotting on a hot summer day. 

In the flower's native habitat the stench would attract pollinators like dung beetles and flesh flies.

Even though it smells rotten it looks like something out of a cartoon garden in Alice and Wonderland. The lily's pale yellow and deep maroon blossom stands four-feet tall on a stiff green and white speckled stalk. 

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Sacramento State math professor Tim Morris takes pictures of the corpse flower before starting his work day. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

"It looks like a red upside down skirt with a protruding phallus," describes visitor Jessica Heskin.

The viewing won't last long. The flower blossoms for less than 48 hours.

Visitor Lauren Schaefer stands in awe. "You know I was here looking at it last night and it's changed since then," says Schaefer.

Corpse lilies grow in rain forests along limestone hills in western Sumatra.
Biologist Michael Fong says today's event is a rare sighting -- even in the wild. The species is threatened by deforestation.

"This plant may not be around in the next couple of decades," says Fong. "We don't know."

The clock ticks on the current display. You have until this afternoon to visit before the petals fade. It won't bloom again for at least a decade. 

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Denise Tapia snaps a selfie with the corpse flower at Sacramento State. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Live-stream video of the corpse lily