Skip to main content
Agriculture and Food

Cal Poly Hosts Viewing of Rare Corpse Flower Bloom

A giant tropical corpse flower bud begins to open in a greenhouse at Cal Poly

It’s big, it’s rare, and it smells like rotting flesh. For the first time ever, a Titan Arum, or corpse flower, is in bloom at Cal Poly.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and smell one of the world’s wonders right here in San Luis Obispo,” said biology Professor Jenn Yost, who is also a Cal Poly alumna. 

A corpse flower’s bloom can grow more than 10 feet high and four feet in diameter. 

The plant grows from a large underground stem and sends up one leaf a year, which can reach over 10 feet tall. After 10 or more years, instead of making a leaf, the plant sends up a huge maroon funnel, called the spathe, with tiny flowers on a huge spike.

Cal Poly horticulture and botany students have been growing the Amorphophallus titanum for several years — and this is the plant’s first flower.

Corpse flowers are open for only two days. At its tallest, this bloom holds the record for the world’s largest unbranched cluster of flowers arranged on a stem, called an inflorescence. To attract the insects that pollinate the plant, the spathe acts like a funnel, sending out a foul aroma similar to that of rotting flesh.

California saw its first Titan Arum bloom in 1999 at the Huntington Botanical Garden in Southern California.

Cal Poly is hosting live viewings of this historic bloom Friday from 4 pm to 9 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm, allowing one household of visitors at a time into Horticulture Unit's Tropical House. Face coverings and social distancing are required. Learn more here.

Or you can skip the line and see it now — without the smell — on the College of Science and Mathematics Youtube channel.