Washington's corpse flower ends its stinky reign

Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:52pm EDT
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By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For weeks, gawkers lined up at the U.S. Botanic Garden, hoping to be among the lucky ones to catch the show when a giant-sized corpse flower bloomed for the first time in seven years.

Its legendary stench was part of the attraction. On Sunday afternoon, when the 8-foot-tall (2.4-metre) Titan Arum plant finally began opening its petals, a smell almost strong enough to stop traffic lured tourists inside from the sweltering National Mall.

Since it went on display July 11 as a 4-foot-tall sprig, the corpse flower has attracted over 120,000 visitors, about one-tenth of the garden's annual number in less than two weeks.

It proved to be an unexpected hit during Washington's summer tourist season. For about 48 hours, long lines of visitors tried to inch close enough to get a whiff of a terrible smell that in the natural world attracts carrion eaters like dung beetles and flies.

The Botanic Garden's Laura Condeluci said most of the smell had abated by Tuesday, but the flower had attracted so much attention, it was continuing to draw throngs.

On social media, the flower - nicknamed Mortimer - chronicled its moments of glory and celebrity visitors on a Twitter feed at @DCTitanArum.

"As of this afternoon, both @DarrellIssa and @jaredpolis will have visited me," Mortimer tweeted on Tuesday, referring to a California Republican and a Colorado Democrat in the House of Representatives. "I have brought bipartisanship to DC. Almost time to retire."

Mortimer bloomed on Instagram, with #corpseflower a popular hashtag. There was live streaming video at www.usbg.gov/return-titan ("Due to high traffic, you may experience some difficulty with the web stream," the Botanic Garden warned).   Continued...