Fatal attraction: rare corpse flower draws hundreds of onlookers

More than 1,000 people have flocked to an abandoned gas station in the San Francisco Bay Area to get a whiff of a corpse flower, named for the stench it emits when it blooms, which has been compared to rotting flesh.

Solomon Leyva, a nursery owner in Alameda who deals in exceptionally rare plants, had been posting on social media about his amorphophallus titanum. When he saw a lot of interest in the giant blooming flower, he decided to share the rare plant with his neighbors.

Leyva wheeled it to the abandoned building earlier this week, where a line of people stretched down the block for most of the day, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“I grabbed my wagon, went down to my greenhouse, put it in with the help of a friend of mine, dragged it down here to this abandoned building and people just started showing up,” Leyva said.

Leyva relaxed in a camping chair at the old art deco gas station and patiently answered the same questions again and again. He estimated that by 4pm, at least 1,200 residents had visited the flower.

“Everyone is commenting to me that the last time they’ve seen this was in San Francisco, and there was a barrier, and they had to wait for hours, and they weren’t allowed to get near it,” Leyva said. “I think everyone’s tripping out that they can walk up and wiggle it and smell it.”

Himanshu and Sayali Jain brought their three-year-old son after following the flower on social media.

“I just wanted to thank him, because I thought we’d never get to see it,” Sayali Jain said.

The odorous plant is known for drawing crowds. Waves of visitors to a corpse flower opening at the New York botanical garden in 2016 described its scent, varyingly, as “filthy”, “worse than a thousand pukes” and “exactly like the streets of Bushwick”.

The corpse flower is extremely rare, with fewer than 1,000 remaining in the wild, according to the US Botanic Garden. It can grow up to 12ft tall and takes around a decade to bloom, during which time it releases its unusual smell to attract pollinators, and then dies within a few days.

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