Hundreds show to watch rare corpse flower bloom at University of Kansas

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — There’s a rare flower at the University of Kansas that only blooms for a single day once every decade.

A line with at least 200 people long stretched down a KU hallway. No they weren’t there for tickets to see basketball but to see a flower in bloom the size of one.

“We drove from Kansas City so it was about a 50 minute drive to come look,” said Jennifer Edwards. “But something that happens this rare I wanted to make sure we came and looked at it.”

It’s called the corpse flower, because of its pungent smell described as a mix of Limburger cheese, garlic, rotting fish or flesh, and smelly feet.

“I came in at 12:30 to pollinate it and at that point I could smell it from outside the building, so I just breathed through my mouth the whole time I was in here,” KU’s Greenhouse Manager Sam Sumpert said.

Sumpert has been tending to the flower also called the Titan Arum and waiting for it to bloom. It’s a long wait, often a decade or more, though this smaller 4 foot flower was ready after about 8 years.

“This is way more than what I was expecting initially,” he said. “I kind of just threw it out there initially and people were demanding updates three times a day, I was getting emails 100 times a day.”

When the greenhouse opened Monday at 8 a.m. people flocked into the greenhouse for a picture of the corpse flower in bloom, or to take a whiff. Its smell faded throughout the day, but not the enthusiasm, with at least a thousand visitors also getting a chance to name the rare flower.

“Any opportunity to see something like this in Lawrence, Kansas is just so neat, so incredible, it’s just a privilege,” Cecilia Roberts, a corpse flower fan, said.

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