UC Berkeley Press Release
'Trudy the Titan' stinky plant abloom at UC Botanical Garden
BERKELEY – Curious visitors lined up outside the gates of the University of California Botanical Garden today (Friday, July 15) before opening hours, anxious to take a peak at the waning, colorful blossoming of a rare plant that emits a powerful odor for which it is dubbed the "corpse plant.
The Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan arum, is treating a steady stream of garden guests –including awed children from summer camps, and teens as well as adults – to the endangered plant's rare blooming process. The plant typically takes at least seven years of growth to bloom and produce its ferocious, foul smell that is similar to rotting flesh, and which draws carrion beetles and flies to aid with pollination.
It began blooming Wednesday afternoon, and its stench continued to waft through its Tropical House home well past the typical 10- to 12-hour process usually associated with the event. The blossom itself may last about 72 hours before collapsing.
"It's pretty cool," said Jin Yoo, 22, who visited the botanical garden on Thursday. Yoo said she's seen the plant in her native Korea, but never with such a huge blossom. She said she's studying French at UC Berkeley this summer and came to explore the garden she's heard so much about. She said the new attraction took her by surprise.
"It was really stinky," commented Grace Mesenbring, 4, of Lafayette, another Wednesday visitor. "But it looked pretty and I liked the colors on it."
Millie Barish of Berkeley got a special introduction to Trudy, as plant owner Bill Weaver of Sunnyvale guided the vision-impaired woman's hands over parts of the notorious plant. "It's so wonderful," she said afterward. "It's amazing."
Paul Licht, director of the botanical garden, said attempts have been made to pollinate the 5-feet-5-inch tall Titan arum with pollen taken from a sister plant and frozen after it blossomed last year at UC Davis. If Trudy bears a cluster of red fruit, the efforts will have been successful, he said.
The plant was first reported in Sumatra, Indonesia, in 1878. Related to the family of plants called "Voodoo lilies," it produces one gigantic, branched leaf that looks like a small tree and reaches 10-15 feet in height.
The foul smell of its bloom draws flies and carrion beetles to pollinate the plant, which has an average life span of about 40 years.
The botanical garden has 10 other titan arums, but none have bloomed. All of the stinky plants now on exhibit at the garden have been raised from the same seed batch. They represent the full growth cycle of the plant over seven years, from the early "corm" phase to bloom.
"It's kind of rewarding to raise it from a 'baby' state and to see it growing and blooming," said Weaver, who describes himself as a "plant nut" with interesting vegetation in all of his own four greenhouses.
In keeping with a national tradition of calling the plant by a human name beginning with the letter "T," Weaver dubbed his plant "Trudy the Titan" in honor of a neighbor who helped him build one of his greenhouses.
Before Trudy, the botanical garden created a public stir for months in the mid-1980s when a rare South American plant, Puya Raimondii, delighted visitors with flowering the lasted for about a month and a half.
The UC Botanical Garden, located at 200 Centennial Dr. in the midst of Strawberry Canyon just above the campus, hosts 12,800 different species and subspecies of plants, making it one of the largest and most diverse collections in the United States. It also has a large number of rare and endangered California native plants on display, with many of them part of its collection maintained for the national Center for Plant Conservation.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $1 for children ages 3 through 18.