Even a Corpse Flower has had enough of summer! Me, too!

I have always enjoyed our California summers. Yes, there’s heat. Yes, there are too many people at the beach. And yes, as a gardening enthusiast, water shortages are a problem.

But this summer has been so rough I think I may have turned a corner. Autumn is often more challenging than summer, so I’m thinking I may prefer winter. Believe me, that’s a first. (Check back with me in January.)

We left town last weekend to spend a few days with our family in Oakland. As we descended the Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains to the foot of the grade known as The Grapevine we landed into a very depressing smoky haze.

I won’t overdo with commentary about the vast number of wildfires. A quick summary of past posts indicates that I’ve specifically posted about wildfires approximately ten times in recent years and I suppose there just isn’t more to say. It’s enough to state that the conditions and circumstances are very sad.

To cope with challenging conditions, we’ve done our best to escape the heat, spend time at the beach, travel to cooler shoreline climates and entertain our grandchildren with as much summertime fun as we could provide. When I find the time to organize my photos I’ll be sharing from some of our favorite “escapes.”

But I also found close-to-home amusements, too.

Our beloved Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens experienced its own weather-related fluctuations. When temperatures climb to 110 degrees (and above on one day) you think twice about visiting.

But the summer “star of the show” was the Amorphophallus titanum or “Corpse Flower,” and with a lot of local publicity die-hard enthusiasts braved the heat to see her perform. Or that was the hope.

The excitement centered around this first-time bloomer. The Huntington has several other “Corpse Flowers” drawing huge crowds when they bloomed, the most recent occurring in August 2014. Expectations were high for this year’s show-stopper.

Curiosity centers around the plant’s release of a foul-smelling odor attracting pollinating insects.

But this summer’s main attraction, on its first attempt to flower, decided it had enough of all this heat and refused to bloom. In the plant world it’s impossible to know with certainty, but experts theorize the plant halted the process to conserve energy for a future bloom.

I don’t blame her. Seems like intelligent reasoning to me!

I’ll wait for the next blooming, but in the meantime I have my own backyard “stinky plant” and I’ve been amused by the way it is flowering even in the extremes of heat.

Stapelia is a genus of succulent from South Africa with visibly hairy flowers generating the odor of rotting flesh! Lovely, huh?

The odors, as in the “Corpse Flower,” attract pollinators. I have never seen a beautiful bee or butterfly on my Stapelia, but instead flies are frequently at the center, adding to the intrigue of a plant classified as a carrion flower.

Watching plant and animal life in the garden refreshes me with examples of resilience and survival. They are experiencing drought and extreme heat, yet they survive, and even bloom, under noticeably stressful conditions.

It’s been too hot during the day to spend much time observing outdoors, but early morning and late afternoon I make the rounds, feeding the birds and enjoying freedom from “refrigerated” air. I see so many areas waiting for my attention. But I’m also conserving my energy for a future “bloom.”

Summertime conditions have been a little wearying, but our family is doing well and that’s reason enough to be at peace.


And from time to time we simply escape.

I’m grateful for all moments of refreshment. Grab them when you can!


(banner photo is fog rolling into San Francisco Bay…not smoke)








40 thoughts on “Even a Corpse Flower has had enough of summer! Me, too!

    • I have friends who live near Tahoe and they’ve been sharing about the smoke, but it’s good to know you had an enjoyable time. So many beautiful places affected and I’m sure none of this is good for us to breathe! i try not to think about that part since I can’t avoid breathing. 🙂

  1. Like you, we tend to hibernate during the day and venture out at dusk for a walk or bike ride.

    Summer has always been my favorite season but here in FL it tends to outstay its welcome and the other months are so pleasant that I am happy to greet them!

    That Corpse Flower (and your own Stinky Pete plant) are such interesting specimens. Roses bred for aroma and other flowers bred for “eau de death.” 😀

    • You gave me a good chuckle with “eau de death,” Nancy! Good one! 🙂 I have always said summer was my favorite season, but the heat started earlier and is sticking around longer than preferred. Our evenings are cool and have been pleasant, so for that I’m grateful and I’m working on my attitude. LOL!

  2. So interesting, I was just watching a documentary yesterday about carrion flowers and how they are pollinated. I guess flies are better than beetles!

    • I’ve never before considered that we may decide at one point to move to a cooler climate. Never saw that coming….but it’s moving up in my list of possibilities. I don’t know where we’d go, but it’s an intriguing mental exercise.

      • I just watched something that indicates it may be too late. i don’t like that line of thinking, but it’s crossed my mind. We’d probably just go back to New Mexico, but further north to Taos or some place like that.

    • Darwin is happy this time of year, Ray. He goes under a tarp and “rests” in the heat of the day, but is active in the morning and later in the afternoon. The thing that fascinates me the most is that although we will have this heat at least through October, it won’t be long before he will begin to really slow down and become less active. He’ll eat less and sleep more. The weather doesn’t necessarily dictate his cycles, but the seasons do. The big thing now is keeping him fed. He eats a lot and then by December, he really won’t eat much, if at all! Thanks for asking about him.

  3. We have had so much rain this year. We had 4 inches last weekend and 2 inches yesterday. Everything is flooded. I wish I could box it and send it to you and all of California. My heart goes out to those fighting the fires and those who live in the area. My husband was in Denver this past week and he said you could the haze from the fires there. So sad.

    • I wish we could take your excess rain, Kate. At least for the fires! I heard that smoke from these fires has actually been detected on the east coast! That amazes me! The firefighters are definitely in our concern. We all are in for a bumpy ride with weather-related extremes, but we will have to learn to “bloom where we are planted.” I’m working on that. 🙂

  4. Summer has been very comfortable here on the north Oregon coast. Very hot inland and that can keep things grey here. But there have been many perfect days and I’m grateful for them. My heart goes out to those suffering smoke and heat.

    • In general I’m pretty adaptable, and I’m glad I can escape the heat regularly. But I do worry about these fires. They really make me jumpy and I can’t seem to avoid being preoccupied by them. You mention the hot inland temperatures and the coastal gray. I really noticed how early the fog rolled into San Francisco and I am sure the inland heat was creating the striking contrast. It was quite beautiful and made for interesting conditions for those of us starved for some cool! 🙂

  5. My heart breaks for California every day as I watch those terrifying fires sweeping across the state. I just read you had recorded the highest temperature ever. This summer has definitely been challenging.
    Sorry you didn’t get to witness the corpse blooming. (Wait, that didn’t sound right!) But your stinky flower is lovely…at first I thought it was a pink starfish.

    • Ha! You gave me a laugh with the wording –“corpse blooming.” It is a hard sentence to construct. LOL! Thank you so much for your sensitive comments about the heat and the fires. I think we are in for some difficult and challenging climate conditions that may seriously increase the length of fire season, and that’s worrisome. The ocean temperature in San Diego was also the warmest on record. I attended a seminar a couple of years ago related to our drought conditions and the professor predicted that the entire west coast would one day need to migrate to Canada due to lack of water. I think of that from time to time…can’t imagine how that would work, but it’s an interesting concept. I have wondered if Canada would be appalled at this thought. LOL! Thank you so much for stopping by, rivergirl. 🙂

  6. If memory serves me correctly, you have posted about the Corpse Flower before. It is quite the sight! On my list for today is narrowing a choice for donating to fire victims. Cheers to the beach walk at the end!

    • I think that’s wonderful that you’re considering donating to the fire victims, Frank. I was so bothered by last year’s October fires that I feel overwhelmed. Like you, I do walk on the beach and gather my thoughts and realign my perspective! I’m grateful for that. Thank you, Frank.

  7. Debra, I know NOTHING about flowers. A few years ago I got tired of not having color. I went to a nursery. I literally nearly cried trying to figure out what to do. Ever since then I put on my brave face and go to the nursery every spring, buy what I like, regardless of not knowing what they are let alone their names. And let me tell you, those plants have been SO very kind to me. Instead of a garden I plant large pots every where. And they bloom like crazy. I’ve not worried about learning about them. I just enjoy them. Since that first year, I have had such excitement just putting odd colors together and watching things grow. 🙂

    • Good for you, Colleen. You didn’t give up! I think that potted plants, greenery and flowers, can make such a beautiful display! There’s flexibility with pots that you can’t achieve in the garden beds, so I can believe that you’ve created a lovely environment. I just cannot imagine not having a garden of some sort. I’m glad to know you’re enjoying that same contentment. 🙂

      • I have to say, I’m very glad too Debra. I love the colors. AND I am constantly amazed at how and when they grow. Some times there is a difference of three inches over night. Problem is, I can’t tell you what plant that is! 😉

  8. Sending cool vibes your way so that you breath fresh air. It’s so awful to hear of the news there, hope flowers bloom again and hope you all have a refreshing drizzle at least…courage Debra.

    • Thank you, Cristina. We are personally ‘hanging in there” and I’m glad to have mobility and the opportunity to find cooler climates from time to time. The fires are very upsetting to me. Continual reminders that we now have a 12-month fire season weighs heavily. But yes, courage. We all need resilience for so many weather-related issues.

    • Ah, Gerlinde! I’m sure you could see the smoke from the air. My kids are in Oakland, and the sunsets were beautiful…but knowing that the unusual orange glow was due to the fires gave us pause. We didn’t go into the City, but from the Oakland Hills we could see out over San Francisco Bay and the beautiful fog rolling in made me feel cool just to see it from a distance. Thank you for sharing your experience. I would imagine by now the smoke would have pooled in an even broader pattern. It’s really so sad!

    • I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed, too! You’re so right about the fall. My father worked for Southern California Edison and was basically “deployed” every September and October to work with the fire crews protecting the power lines. He was often out of town much of the fall, and even right up until Christmas, but the rest of the year was rarely “fire season.” This has been so early to have such statewide involvement. So yes…let’s hope. We live in the Pasadena area so we aren’t directly affected either. I feel very grateful!

  9. I’ve been hiding out in New Mexico to avoid the heat 😉 IRL we’ve had a bit too much summer too with temperatures getting up to 95f in London. 95f is way too hot for us – we’re not used to it! Fortunately we missed the actual hottest week in London because we were in Scotland where the temperature was still a warm 80f for the first week. But there have been plenty of nights this summer when it was too hot to get a proper sleep 😦

    I will mention wildfires because we saw the news about the devastation in Redding – Our thoughts were certainly with Californian friends when watching that.

    Kew Gardens has several Amorphophallus species including the titanium which is usually displayed in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Getting the conditions right to get them to flower is always difficult but the conservatory with its ability to maintain tightly controlled micro-climate zones has made it possible.

    Stay cool and best wishes from London 🙂

  10. Some fascinating and beautiful plants, Debra. For a year in the 1970s I lived in the Berkeley Hills and the fog rolling in through the Golden Gate was a common and very impressive sight.

  11. “Watching plant and animal life in the garden refreshes me with examples of resilience and survival.” – There is so much optimism in that sentence, Debra, and it is “spot on”! Somehow, they adapt and find ways to continue on, or make room for newcomers.

    I think I may have mentioned that the Chicago Botanical Garden had a corpse plant a few years ago. There was quite the hype over it with lines waiting to see it. It didn’t bloom when it was supposed to, but, later on . . . We need this things, these awakenings and phenomena and such, don’t we? It brings some variety into our lives – especially in California. Oh, Debra, please know that many, including us here, are praying for California.

  12. I have to admit I am happy to live in a temperate climate, although at times it means too much rain. But even this summer has been exceptional hot for us. Yes, I have enjoyed more sun than rain, but it’s still only shows that something is wrong with the climate of Mother Earth. I hope things will start to cool down for you. And the wildfires will cease.

  13. Pingback: the STINKER came through, a bunny goes to heaven, and a Grizzly’s meal is kind of grizzly – breathelighter

  14. The banner with misty fog is beautiful, Deb!
    I also was happy you showed us the corpse flower from another year. The one in your garden is gorgeous! I think it is amazing you were able to get it to bloom in the high heat temps there.
    Hope you have found respite and coolness in nights and mornings. . . hugs xo

  15. I must admit, even though I’m not a Californian, I’m not a summertime person. Here in the southeast, the humidity gets entirely out of hand and I just feel “blah!” Autumn is definitely my favorite season here, but each region definitely has its seasonal charms.

    I especially enjoyed what you said here: “Watching plant and animal life in the garden refreshes me with examples of resilience and survival. They are experiencing drought and extreme heat, yet they survive, and even bloom, under noticeably stressful conditions.” That was beautifully stated, Debra.

    I loved this post. The photos are spectacular and the corpse flower story made me chuckle. It’s moments like this that made me fall in love with plants and even dedicate my site to them. Keep up the great work 🙂

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