Voodoo lily bloom
Voodoo lily bloom at San Diego Botanic Garden. Courtesy of the garden

San Diego Botanic Garden announced Wednesday that a “voodoo lily” — a smaller relative of the giant corpse plant — is blooming now and can be seen for the next day or two.

The Amorphophallus konjac, also commonly called devil’s tongue or elephant yam, belongs to the same genus as the famous titan arum, or corpse plant. Like its larger cousin, the voodoo lily emits a rotting flesh scent as it blooms, to attract the carcass-eating insects that pollinate it.

Thousands of visitors flocked to the garden in Encinitas in November to see the blooms of two titan arum plants, including Jack Smellington, the corpse flower that went viral for blooming on Halloween.

“This bloom will only last a few days,” said Brandi Eide, deputy CEO of the garden. “It’s a delight for the eyes but not for the nose. The flowers smell like a dead animal, an irresistible scent to the flies who pollinate them.”

The garden’s staff first spotted a bloom spike, or inflorescence, emerging from the soil on Feb. 5. During the last ten days, the plant has grown more than three feet in height. Plants in the genus Amorphophallus have the longest unbranched flower spikes in the world.

The voodoo lily requires an enormous amount of energy to produce such an exceptional bloom spike in such a short time. It uses the water and nutrients stored in its underground tuber, called a corm.

The starchy corm is edible, and some Southeast Asian cuisines use it to make jelly snacks, as well as a flour for noodles and “yam cakes.” The cakes are commonly known in the United States by their Japanese name, konnyaku, and the noodles are commonly known as shirataki.

The Amorphophallus konjac is native to China’s Yunnan Province, and is cultivated throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of China, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam as both a food source and for traditional medicine.

The voodoo lily can be seen from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday and, if it is still blooming, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.