Flower stinks up Roseville High School

Teacher, students bring corpse flower to bloom
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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For visitors eager to smell Roseville High School’s “corpse flower,” the infamous scent did not disappoint.

Known for producing a stench similar to that emitted by decaying bodies, the local flower filled the air of the school’s greenhouse with nauseating odors that both repulsed and captivated visitors Saturday afternoon and Sunday (check out the Press Tribune photo gallery).

“It’s really wonderful to see, I didn’t want to miss it,” said Nancy Olender. “This is like a bucket-list thing because it’s not often you can see one of these flowers blooming … You know it can be really awful if you’re standing in the right place. It’s really kind of gross, but it’s amazing to see.”

Hundreds of people stopped by to see the flower during the public viewing Sunday, said Roseville High School teacher C.J. Addington, who spent “11 hours talking nonstop” about “Tiger the Titan Arum.”

“It does smell like a rotting animal. It’s pretty bad,” said visitor Jennifer Hill. “I heard that these don’t bloom very often around here. The last time it happened was at UC Davis and people came from all over and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s right here in Roseville, let’s go check it out.’”

A titan arum, better known as a corpse flower, is a massive flower that typically takes about 10 years to bloom — if it blooms at all.

The female flower opens first, generating heat and giving off a huge stench. On the second day, the flower turns male and produces more smells. This sex change prevents self-pollination. Then the flower closes up and collapses.

“It took 10 years of growth and you only get two days of flower,” said Roseville High School biology teacher C.J. Addington.

For the past decade, Addington and his students have cared for the flower in the greenhouse, which the school installed five years ago, and where they grow all sorts of tropical and exotic plants.

Addington, a 19-year-veteran of the school, fed, nursed and cared for the flower that whole time, as students came and went. One of those students, Christian Baltazar, helped grow the flower for his biology class. He graduated this spring.

“One day, I asked him, what’s that giant tree growing in the middle of the greenhouse?’” Baltazar said. “I didn’t know it was a flower. I’m truly impressed. It’s such an amazing flower.”

The titan arum is endemic to rainforests in Sumatra. Otherwise, the flower is often only found at botanical gardens or universities as it is notoriously hard to grow and requires devoted attention and substantial resources.

That’s where Roseville High School’s greenhouse comes into play. Before the school had the structure, Addington kept the flower at his house.

“This district and this school have always been really big on science education and that enables this to happen,” Addington said. “The flower is cool, but it’s an emblem of the district being supportive.”

The teacher worked with faculty at the University of California at Davis throughout the process to get advice, as that college’s staff has grown the corpse flower on seven occasions. Addington said staff there thinks Roseville High School might be the first public school in the United States to bring the corpse flower to bloom.

Student Stephen Allwein, who will be a senior this fall, was excited to learn of the progression.

“I find the really weird plants, like the corpse flower, the best,” Allwein said.

Addington said this flower may actually bloom again in the future.

“When you talk to plant people, certain things are considered big achievements,” he said, smiling. “Growing a titan arum is right at the top of the list.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.