Corpse Flower Alert

The Botanic Garden, over the road from school, has announced that its smelliest flower, the inadequately-named titan arum corpse plant, is about to burst into flower.

The Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanus, is indigenous to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia where it grows on forested limestone hillsides, and when it flowers it heats itself to over 40ºC and emits an odour designed to attract the carrion beetles which pollinate it: it resembles both in smell and in appearance (at any rate, in colour) the corpse of a rotting mammal (specifically, I read, it contains chemicals variously found to produce odours present in limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, Chlorasceptic, mothballs, and floral sweetness).

But it flowers only very infrequently. The garden has two specimens, and the last time one of them flowered was in 2004. I was there, and paid it a visit. I was also present at the flowering of the same species in about 1993 in Kew Gardens, when people queued for hours (well over half-an-hour, anyway) in order to get close. Why, I cannot explain, except to make the general observation that humans will generally go out of their way for a marvel.

I do not remember either being that smelly, if I’m honest, but it seems that the smell only really comes into its own in the night. For this reason, the garden proposes to stay open late into the evening, as it did in 2004, so that no one has any excuse or alternative but to inhale the flower in all its putrid glory.

In 2004, the garden also produced a time-lapse video of the event, unfortunately not in smelly vision.

So, don’t make any plans for this weekend. A very smelly flower awaits your pleasure. Visit the Botanic Garden website here for updates.