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'Mind-blowing' corpse flower blooms at botanical gardens

Fester the corpse flower bloomed in all his glory at 3 p.m Saturday in the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens.

Unfortunately, it came at a time when most of the public didn't have a chance to see the rare occurrence, which happens every 7 to 10 years.

But on Sunday, a steady stream of viewers came to look at the flower that rapidly grew to 5 feet 8 inches tall and opened its spaeth to reveal a burgundy color.

"I rushed to get here," said Ralph Boehm of North Tonawanda. "I didn't find out he was in full bloom until late yesterday, and I said I'm getting here one way or another."

Boehm was impressed by the sight of the blooming flower, but disappointed that the smell of rotting corpses had diminished from the day before. He wasn't alone.

"I'm sorry I missed the smell because I really wanted to check that out," said Kate Saenz of Kenmore. "You can actually see little flies flying in and out of there, so even if it doesn't smell that strong to us I guess it does to them."

But Saenz wasn't disappointed overall.

"It's absolutely incredible," she said. "Just the sheer size of it is what is so mind-blowing to me."

Rachel Swenson was also struck by the corpse flower's size. "It's much bigger than I thought it was going to be," she said.

Swenson's friend said she could smell Fester, but Swenson said she had no such luck.

"Half the attraction for me is the smell," she said, as she started to move toward the flower in another bid to get a whiff.

Fester's bloom followed a disappointing one almost four weeks ago to the day from Morty, a corpse flower obtained at the same time.

Morty had a spectacular bloom four years ago when he grew to a height of over 7 feet, and wasn't due to do so again for another 3 to 6 years, so Botanical Gardens' staff weren't sure what to expect. They weren't sure about Fester, either, since information wasn't available when he was obtained about when or if he had bloomed before.

Erin Grajek, the Botanical Gardens' marketing director, said Fester was quite a spectacle Saturday afternoon.

"He was spectacular," Grajek said. "It was pretty awesome to watch him literally open before your eyes."

"The flies were everywhere, and they were disgusting," she said. "The smell was so bad."

Grajek said that staff wondered if the heat accelerated Fester's growth.

"Maybe he was feeling back home in Sumatra with the 100-degree temperatures," she said.

Corpse flowers – the actual name is Amorphophallus titanum – are native to the rainforests of Sumatra and Indonesia. They typically bloom every seven to 10 years.

Even though Fester was already starting to close up on Sunday afternoon, the world's second largest flower was still quite a sight to those in attendance.

"It's very beautiful," said Angela Tanner of North Tonawanda, adding Fester "smells a little stinky."

"It's amazing something like that's on earth," said her husband, Jim Tanner, who was struck by its sheer size.

Fester's viewing hours were extended until 10 p.m. Sunday at the Botanical Gardens. It may still be possible to see the flower in bloom into Monday afternoon.

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