Rare Corpse Flower Blooms in Tucson

As explorers, it’s easy to forget that sometimes you don’t need to fly to another country to experience the wonders of the world. Sometimes the best stuff is right in your own backyard.

Rosie, the corpse flower, at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. See her today! Photo by Charish Badzinski.

The trick is making it a priority to experience those things.

Yesterday in Tucson, a rare corpse flower named Rosie began blooming. Knowing it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this flower in action, and we only had about 24 hours to do so before the flower fades, RollerbagMom and I dropped everything and headed to Tucson Botanical Gardens to see the magic, in person.

The announcement that the flower was blooming went out at about 12:30. We were in line by 2:30, and already parking was a challenge. Once inside the beautiful gardens, we waited in line for over an hour.

Waiting in line to see Rosie at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Worth every minute. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

And you know what? It was worth every minute.

While waiting, we learned about the corpse flower from dedicated volunteers of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. How it is one of the rarest and largest flowers in the world. How it blooms once every six to 10 years. How it’s a tuber, and can be propagated through both its seeds and by splitting the root. How Rosie’s tuber weighs a whopping 30 pounds! How they’re endangered and native to Sumatra. So much cool information!

Info about the corpse flower lifecycle, as displayed at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

We caught our first glimpse of the flower through a window into the butterfly garden, where the flower is making its home for now. The excitement continued to build.

Our first glimpse of Rosie the corpse flower at the Tucson Botanical Gardens was through a window to the butterfly pavilion. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

We also met fellow travelers from Tucson, who had just returned from a trip to the Galapagos Islands. While away, they’d been afraid they would miss the blooming of the flower, but as luck would have it, they got home just in time.

As we stood in line, staff pollenated the flower with pollen collected and shipped in from a corpse plant in Chicago. Amazing, right? (And you thought Tinder was efficient!) The hope is that Rosie will make little corpse flower babies. Awww. Coochie, coochie, phew!

Selfie with Rosie, the corpse flower. The focus is on Rosie in her big moment, and rightfully so! 

When we finally had our two minutes with the corpse flower, we were stunned by her size. To be honest, she didn’t look real! Rosie looked like a cartoon flower from Whoville. The urge to touch her was strong, but of course, we resisted.

She’s about 10 feet tall. She’s beautiful. And she’s rare. According to WTKR, only 100 corpse flowers have bloomed in captivity. Ever.

And guess what? She didn’t stink. Not at all. From time to time while in line we thought we caught a whiff of something…but when next to her, we didn’t detect a scent. (Source of the mysterious smell is still under investigation.) Our guess is she starts to emit as she ages and fades. (Insert old age and emissions joke here.)

Is it worth going back just to catch a whiff? Sure–and you can enjoy the rest of the gardens, too, while you’re there.

The rest of the Tucson Botanical Gardens is also worth exploring. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

There’s still time to see Rosie the corpse flower! The Tucson Botanical Gardens have expanded hours to accommodate the many people who want to see the flower in person, so you have until 10 p.m. tonight to catch the flower in its full glory. She’s likely to fade after that. Admission for adults is $15.

Flitting about the globe? Island hopping in the Galapagos? Still chipping out of the ice in the midwest? Well then, dear traveler, if you can’t make it to the Tucson Botanical Gardens in person, you can see the blooming of the corpse flower in real time via their webcam.

A blooming cactus at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

After seeing Rosie, we took a little time to explore the amazing Botanical Gardens. They’re so tranquil, so lovely. We can’t wait to go back.

RollerbagMom at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

The lesson: you don’t always have to pack your rollerbag to embrace the spirit of travel and live an expansive life. Being a traveler is just as much about embracing everyday wonder–no matter where you find it.

You just have to be willing to say yes when the opportunity presents itself, to enjoy the lingering perfume of adventure.

Bougainvillea at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Photo by Charish Badzinski. 


Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to her clients.

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb

Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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