I waited in line for twenty minutes. At this point, the long string of people almost wrapped around the corner of the building. When I finally walk into the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, a blast of humid air envelops me, closely followed by a musty, almost foul smell. I feel a grin stretching across my face as I trace the scent through a tropical plant oasis into the large gallery that holds the perpetrator.
A titan arum plant, popularly known as the “corpse flower” for its stench, awaits in its terra cotta planter home. A long, yellow protrusion–the spadix–rises from the center of an open, frilly base. The spathe, I remind myself, studying the maroon and green folds of the leaf structure before I tune in to a staff member talking to a mass of wide-eyed visitors.