‘Gym socks and rotten steak:’ Corpse flower blooms at UC garden

Maladora, UC Botanical Garden's corpse flower, bloomed on Wednesday October 25, 2017. The flower will continue blooming for 24 hours and smells like a mix of gym socks and rotten steak. (Photo by University of California Botanical Garden)

Maladora, UC Botanical Garden’s corpse flower, bloomed on Wednesday October 25, 2017. The flower will continue blooming for 24 hours and smells like a mix of gym socks and rotten steak. (Photo by University of California Botanical Garden)

So what’s the corpse flower at UC Botanical Garden smell like anyway?

“Well, I’d say it smells like dirty gym socks wrapped around a rotten steak,” said Jonathan Goodrich, an associate director at the garden. “Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty descriptive.”

This year’s flower, named Maladora, blooms once every eight to 10 years or so, making today’s bloom a special event. After blossoming last night, Maladora will bloom through most of today but the eau d’ ‘dora will be mostly gone by Friday.

In their native Sumatra, the plants, scientific name Amorphophallus titanium, can grow to 12 to 20 feet tall. But Maladora, not used to Berkeley’s cooler climate, is only about 4 feet tall. It’s sister flower, Trudy, bloomed in 2015.

Maladora isn’t actually a single flower, but a collection of tiny male and female flowers that slowly grow around a central protuberance.

“It shoots up a leaf and collects energy and then the leaf dies, then later it shoots up another leaf and collects energy and then that leaf dies, and eventually when it stores up enough energy it blooms,” Goodrich said.

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And that corpse stench? It tricks bugs who usually feast on dead animals into carrying pollen across the jungle.

“It releases the smell in waves,” Goodrich said. “It pulses, in a sense.”

The botanical garden, high above campus on Centennial Way, will stay open an hour later  — until 6 p.m. — today (Thursday). Free shuttles are running between the garden and the Lawrence Hall of Science parking lot.

Berkeley students, staff and faculty can get in for free and don’t have to wait in line, Goodrich said. Regular admission is $12 and children under 6 are free.

More details can be found on the garden’s website.

Fiat Vox, UC Berkeley’s podcast, visited the garden two years ago when Trudy, Maladora’s sister corpse plant, bloomed. Listen here:

Contact Will Kane at willkane@berkeley.edu