‘Vodoo Lily’ blooms at Soka

The rare dragon arum (dacunculus vulgaris), or voodoo lily, has been growing unexpectedly at the SUA Calabasas' John and Juliana Gensley Native Garden. The foul smelling flower, which was not planted by SUA staff, recently bloomed, attracting flies.

The rare bloom, reminiscent of the Corpse Flower, which bloomed at the Huntington Botanical Gardens several years ago, was not intentionally planted by Soka staff. It emits the same type of smell of rotting flesh as the Corpse Flower did.

By Ximoara Rios/Special to The Malibu Times

Staff members at Soka University in Calabasas recently stumbled upon a rare find, an uncommon eye-catching flower with a not-so-pleasant odor. The majestic flower has been identified as dragon arum (dacunculus vulgaris), or voodoo lily, which is not a local plant species.

The voodoo lily is a native to Mediterranean Europe. It is still unknown how the flower grew there, but staff members at Soka said they did not plant it. This is the first time the plant has ever bloomed since the campus was bought in 1987, even though the plant’s leaves have broken earth for the past eight years. The plant is beautiful in appearance with its deep maroon foliage, and a purple stalk; however, the smell it emits is said by Soka staff to be most unpleasant. The voodoo lily mimics another plant, the titan arum, which releases an essence similar to rotting flesh or feces.

The odd smell attracts insects that help it pollinate. The flower spreads seeds on the ground, and then ants and beetles carry them away and distribute the seeds to other regions.

The uncommon aroma lasts for a short period of time, usually only long enough to attract pollinators.

This is not the first time this rare species has stirred interest among the plant community.

The dragon arum is reminiscent of the Sumatran native Amorphophallus titanium, considered the world’s largest flower, blossomed at the Huntington Botanical gardens in 1999, drawing more than 76,000 visitors over the course of 19 days to witness the event. It was labeled the “Corpse Flower” because of the stench it emitted. It was a rare event when it bloomed-only the 11th recorded bloom in the United States, the first to occur in California.

Those interested in viewing the Vodoo Lily at Soka can do so by visiting the Calabasas campus on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The admission is free and no reservations are required. 26800 W. Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas. 818.878.3703