An entire town lined up to take photos with a rare corpse flower at an abandoned gas station
Rhododendrites/Bg2655, Wikimedia Commons

When you have a flower that only blooms once a decade or so, you probably want to share it with the world when it does.

Nursery owner Solomon Leyva decided to wheel his rare corpse flower out to an abandoned gas station in Alameda, California on May 18 to share the joy—and the stank—of it in bloom. The corpse flower is so named because of its rotting smell when it's in full bloom. (The smell has been described as "worse than a thousand pukes," which may also explain why Leyva brought it out into a wide open space during its flowering phase. Even though it only blooms for a day or two, it's probably not too pleasant to have that smell indoors, even in a greenhouse.)

The first bloom of a corpse flower takes around seven to 10 years. After that, it's anyone's guess how often it will bloom. For some, it's every few years, for others it can be several decades between blooms.


Corpse flowers are huge, growing up to 10 feet in height, and most of the time they sit with their "petals" (actually a singular frilly leaf called the spathe) wrapped up around their towering centers (called the spadix). When in bloom, the spadix actually creates heat, and a combination of chemicals put off a mix of smells described as cheesy and garlicky, sweaty feet-ish, and rotting fishy.

In other words, the rare blooming corpse flower is a feast for both the eyes and the nose.

Leyva told the San Francisco Chronicle that he shares his extremely rare plants on Instagram, and when he saw people showing interest in his corpse flower, he decided to bring it out for the public to enjoy.

"I grabbed my wagon, went down to my greenhouse, put it in with the help of a friend of mine, dragged it down here to this abandoned building and people just started showing up," Leyva said.

Leyva sat near the flower in a folding chair and answered people's questions. He didn't set any rules for viewing, but as more and more people arrived, they formed an orderly line on their own, sometimes stretching down the block. By late afternoon, Leyva estimated that at least 1,200 residents had visited the flower.

"Everyone is commenting to me that the last time they've seen this was in San Francisco, and there was a barrier, and they had to wait for hours, and they weren't allowed to get near it," he said. "I think everyone's tripping out that they can walk up and wiggle it and smell it."

The combination of the bloom being a rare event as well as a putrid curiosity is likely what brought so many people out to an abandoned gas station to see a single flower. But the flood of visitors may also have been because Leyva's instinct to share something special with the public in such an unlikely place, expecting nothing in return, created a sense of community that we've all been craving during the pandemic. No cost, no fuss, no hassle, just "Hey, I've got this big ass flower that only blooms every ten years or so and it's blooming now so come take a look! And by the way, it reeks!" And the people came.

Thank you, Solomon Leyva, for sharing your cool, rank flower and reminding us that sometimes people will do something awesome for people just because it's an awesome thing to do for people.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

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