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Little shop of odors: Trudy the corpse plant

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JULY 28, 2015

Trudy the corpse flower just bloomed for the fourth time in the UC Botanical Gardens. We at the Clog visited her and listened to what her owner, Bill Weaver, had to say about her and other corpse plants.

trudy pre bloom
Photo illustration by Zainab Ali

Trudy before she bloomed.

Here are some of the fun facts we learned about Trudy and other corpse flowers:

  • Their scientific name is Amorphophallus titanum, which means “giant misshapen penis.”
  • Their common name, titan arum, was invented by British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who thought the true name might be a bit much for his audience members.
  • They emit an odor that resembles rotting flesh to attract pollinators, such as beetles and flies.
  • They are female when they first bloom (receptive to pollen), and then become male after about a day (emit pollen) to prevent self-pollination.
trudy male
Photo illustration by Zainab Ali

Trudy as a male.

  • In 1995, Dr. Symon, a San Francisco physician with a passion for the plants, sent seeds to gardens across the nation so they could pollinate each other. They started blooming about 10 years later.
  • UC Davis had 10 of the plants but, because of their size, sold about half, one of which was Trudy.
  • They are relatives of the calla lily.
  • They grow on the island of Sumatra.
  • When they are not in bloom, they store energy in their corm under ground and have a giant leaf above ground. Once the corm gets big enough, they bloom.
  • Trudy’s “aboveground leaf” before it bloomed was 13 feet high and 12 feet across.
  • They take about seven to 10 years to bloom the first time, but after that there is great variation in how long it takes.
  • It took Trudy 10 years to bloom initially, and her last bloom was 3 years ago.
  • This is Trudy’s fourth bloom.
  • Trudy is 20 years old. The average lifespan of titan arums is about 40 years, so Trudy is middle aged.
  • Trudy is 56 inches tall (her smallest bloom was 31 inches, and her largest was 84 inches).
  • Trudy is named after Weaver’s neighbor.
inside trudy
Photo illustration by Zainab Ali

Inside of Trudy.

Inspired by her fumes, we wrote a poem about the unique plant.

An ode to Trudy

To our dearest Trudy,
Your smell makes some moody
They don’t  see your beauty

But Trudy, you’re Titan
Some, your smell may frighten
But for us it’ll enlighten

You are twenty years old
You cannot stand the cold
You are Sumatra’s gold

You took ten years to bloom
Time surely did not zoom
‘Till we smelled your vile fume


Contact Zainab Ali at [email protected].

JULY 29, 2015