Twin putrid 'corpse' flowers causing a blooming stink
Dave Angelini of Coventry, Conn., smells an amorphophallus titanum plant, also known as the corpse flower at the University of Connecticut greenhouse in Storrs, Conn., Saturday, May 12, 2007. The rare flower, native to the rain forests of Sumatra, Indonesia, began blooming on Friday and is expected to last for 48 hours. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
A Titan arum, also knows as the "corpse flower" is seen in bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2013, where visitors hope to get a whiff of its characteristic smell of rotting flesh. The smell had peaked in the early morning hours, yet despite the lack of stink visitors streamed in to get a look at the unusual plant. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A woman takes a photograph of the Amorphophallus Titanum, also known as the Titan Arum or Corpse flower, because of it's smell, one of the world's largest flowers, at the National Botanic Garden in Meise near Brussels, Monday, July 8, 2013. The rare phallus-like flower that springs from the plant only survives about 72 hours. (AP photo/Yves Logghe)
Austin Lasseter, of Alexandria, Va., with his children Sarah, 8, left, and Pete, 4, look at the Titan arum, also known as the "corpse flower" in expectation of getting a whiff of it's characteristic blooming smell of rotting flesh, Monday, July 22, 2013, at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington. The smell had peaked in the early morning hours, yet despite the lack of stink visitors streamed in to get a look at the unusual plant. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A Titan Arum, also known as the "corpse flower" blooms at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2013. The plant peaked in it's characteristic blooming smell of rotting flesh very early in the morning, yet despite the lack of stink visitors streamed in to get a look at the unusual plant. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Visitors of the Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen saw nothing less than a sensation when an Amorphophallus Titanum bloomed for the first time in nine years in Denmark, Friday, June 22, 2012. However, it might be a malodorous experience as the giant plant emits a strong odor of carcass and therefore has been nicknamed the Corpse-flower or Mr. Stinky. (AP Photo/Polfoto/Jacob Ehrbahn)
Dan Hagen of Berlin, Conn., smells the University of Connecticut's rare "corpse flower", the bud of the exotic Sumatran plant, the Titan Arum, in Storrs, Conn., Friday, June 17, 2011. The plant has bloomed only twice since the seed was planted in 1994, and previous blooms in 2004 and 2007 drew scores of visitors. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
This Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, photo provided by Virginia Tech shows the blossom of a Amorphophallus titanum, or "corpse flower" in Virginia Tech greenhouse in Blacksburg, Va. The plant, a native of Indonesia, emits a stench to attract decaying flesh-eating beetles, flies and sweat bees for pollination. Once it blooms, the odor lingers for about eight hours, then it takes several more years before the plant has enough energy to bloom again. (AP Photo/Virginia Tech, Al Kennedy)
Visitors crowd around a Titan arum, also known as the "corpse flower" in expectation of getting a whiff of it's characteristic blooming smell of rotting flesh, Monday, July 22, 2013, at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington. The smell had peaked in the early morning hours, yet despite the lack of stink visitors streamed in to get a look at the unusual plant. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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By Letitia Stein
(Reuters) - The blossoming of twin "corpse" flowers, whose towering, phallic-shaped blooms reek of rotten flesh, is drawing tourists like flies to what experts are calling a lunar eclipse of the botany world.
It is unusual to see one of these endangered titans bloom in its native Indonesia, much less in captivity, and two are putting on a show within days of each other at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.
The creamy yellow flower - actually a stalk called an inflorescence containing thousands of flowers - extends up to 10 feet (3 meters) and emits a stench like decomposing flesh to lure pollinating flies and beetles. The excitement lasts for just 48 hours before it closes, usually not to be seen again for years.
"I always warn people not to eat lunch before they come see it because they are not going to keep it down," said Angel Lara, greenhouse manager at Selby Gardens, located on Florida's west coast. "Everything about this thing is large and in charge."
At botanical gardens across North America, a typical year may see four Amorphophallus titanum plants bloom, Lara said. Earlier this spring, Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Hawaii, also expected multiple blooms in rapid succession. Lara said the appearance of a signature corpse bloom is to gardening aficionados as exciting as the periodic lunar eclipse.
In Florida, the titan nicknamed Seymour surprised Selby Gardens by rapidly opening Friday morning, ahead of its expected schedule. Nearly 2,000 visitors came during the weekend to goggle at its 6 feet (2 meters) of putrid glory, four times normal attendance.
Sibling Audrey - also named after a character in "Little Shop of Horrors," a musical comedy about a blood-thirsty plant - is expected to follow suit in eight to 10 days.
In daily Facebook updates, Selby Gardens said Audrey grew 4 inches (10 cm) overnight and now stands 4 feet (122 cm) tall. Gardeners plan to inseminate her with pollen harvested from Seymour in the hopes of seeding offspring.