Botanics visitors increase as ‘corpse plant’ blooms

Sadie Barber keeps a watchful eye as the plant begins to show signs of flowering.'' Picture: Neil Hanna
Sadie Barber keeps a watchful eye as the plant begins to show signs of flowering.'' Picture: Neil Hanna
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BUMPER crowds are set to flock to the Botanics after the world’s smelliest plant began to flower for the first time.

The fleeting spectacle is expected to attract more than ten times the usual number of visitors to the garden’s glasshouses.

Experts had been watching the Titan Arum with bated breath and were stunned to discover yesterday morning that it was starting to blossom.

The exotic plant generally flowers every seven to ten years – but staff at the Botanics have been waiting on theirs for more than 12, and it has never before been seen in Scotland.

Suspicion had grown that something was about to happen after it began sprouting by 8cm a day – as revealed by the Evening News earlier this week.

It is now expected to bloom fully within the next fortnight, but the flower fades quickly so visitors will have a window of up to four days to see it in all its glory.

Heather Jackson, director of enterprise at the Botanics, predicted that up to 4000 people would flock each day.

She said: “On an average day in June we receive around 200 to 300 visitors to the Glasshouses.

“When the flower is at its smelliest we are expecting visits to increase to between 3000 and 4000.

“The garden, which is normally open from 10am to 6pm in summer, will open from 9am to 9pm during that time.

“We are mobilising our teams to cope with the extra visitors to make sure it is an unforgettable experience.”

The plant is also called Amorphophallus titanum, which translates as “misshapen penis” – but has been nicknamed “New Reekie” by Botanics staff.

The bloom will be followed by a “corpse stench” phase when the plant releases powerful odours designed to attract pollinators such as beetles.

The plant had also looked set to flower five years ago but, despite the promising signs, it didn’t happen.

Horticulturist Sadie Barber admitted she had been concerned that it might not flower this time round either.

But she added: “It has finally happened in a first for Scotland. It’s also quite rare for it to flower in cultivation although there have been others, such as in Kew Gardens in London. It’s taken us 12 years to get to this point and it could be quite a number of years before we have another one growing.

“This gives us hope and at least we know that the conditions are suitable.

“It is also a huge relief because we have prepared for it for so long and it would have been a real disappointment if it hadn’t happened this time.”

The plant was given to the garden in 2003 as a corm about the size of an orange, and has been cared for by several people since then including horticulturists Steve Scott, Louise Galloway and Andy Ensoll.

Visitors will not have to pay more than the standard £5 for adults and £4 for concessions to enter the glasshouse when the bloom is in flower.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com