Don’t Sniff the Smelly Corpse Flower
If you are in possession of even a remotely sensitive nose, you don’t want to put it anywhere near the corpse flower. The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) produces the world’s tallest flower, but it also creates the world’s biggest and most revolting floral stink. The corpse flower is very well named as it smells of rotting flesh.
It was discovered in 1878 by the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. Native to Indonesia where it grows in the rainforests of Sumatra, the locals call it bunga bangkai or “Mother-in-Law” plant. The corpse flower is huge, it can grow to a height of over 10ft and be about 5ft around. The strange thing about this plant is that it goes for years, or sometimes even decades without flowering.
But when it does briefly flower, the stench it gives off is truly appalling, like rotting flesh, rancid fish and sweating feet. The purpose of this stink is to attract flesh eating flies and beetles which arrive looking for a meal and end up pollinating the plant instead.
If the plant is successfully pollinated it produces hundreds of gold coloured seeds, which then go red as they ripen and are eventually eaten and dispersed by birds and animals. The plant then goes into a phase of growing a single leaf which dies and keeps coming back larger and larger, until the plant is ready to flower again.
Believe it of not the corpse flower is actually related to the much more common (and popular) arum lily, but a much bigger and smellier member of the family. There are relatively few of these plants grown outside the wild around the world and when one of them does flower it’s always something of a media event.
If you ever get the chance to go and see one of these amazing corpse flowers in bloom it’s well worth having a look, just remember to take a nose peg with you!