Visitors in rush to see Botanics ‘corpse flower’

Senior horticulturist Sadie Barber waters the Amorphophallus titanum. Picture: Neil Hanna
Senior horticulturist Sadie Barber waters the Amorphophallus titanum. Picture: Neil Hanna
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MORE than 20,000 people have flocked to see the world’s smelliest flower – dubbed “New Reekie” – after it bloomed in Scotland for the first time.

Amorphophallus titanum – or titan arum – is known as the “corpse flower” because of the stench of rotting flesh it emits to attract pollinating insects when in bloom.

Queues outside the glasshouse at the Botanics to see the world's smelliest flower. Picture: Neil Hanna

Queues outside the glasshouse at the Botanics to see the world's smelliest flower. Picture: Neil Hanna

The plant, native only to the Sumatran rainforest, has been nurtured in a glasshouse at the Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens for 12 years.

The 2.8 metres tall, deep red flower and unmistakable stink began to emerge on Friday night, sending plant-lovers into a frenzy. The rare spectacle will only last until today before it starts to wilt, however.

Senior horticulturist Sadie Barber said: “It’s still looking great. The spadix – or central column – is still fully erect and the skirt is still a beautiful deep red.

“People were queueing as soon as it was flowering, and they were queueing up again first thing yesterday morning.

“In total, including the lead-up, we’ve had more than 20,000 visitors so far, which is amazing.”

Miss Barber was gifted the corm in 2003 by Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, Netherlands.

The heaviest corm ever recorded, at 153.9kg, it produced seven leaves in the 12 years in the Botanics’ glasshouse, but never a flower.

The stunning bloom is one of the tallest on record and also measures an incredible two metres in diameter.

Miss Barber said she was “thrilled” to finally see, and smell, the incredible curiosity of the plant world.

“The flower is absolutely beautiful and the smell was unmistakable – exactly like rotting meat. At its peak in the glasshouse it actually made our eyes water.

“It really is one of the most extraordinary flowering plants we have ever seen.”

A Botanics scientist yesterday cut a window in the huge floral skirt to allow visitors to see the structure inside. Pollen could be released from the plant today, which will then be collected and sent to the Eden Project and to Niagara Parks in Canada to help their own specimens produce fruit.

Often an Amorphophallus titanum will die after flowering, but with careful cultivation a plant can continue to produce more leaves or flowers in subsequent years.

Mis Barber added: “The full bloom only lasts a few days so visitors should catch the spectacle while they can.

“Soon the spadix will wither and fall over and we will be left with the underground tuber or corm.

“Our plant should survive and go into dormancy again. And maybe in three or four years we could have another flower if we are lucky.”

Visitors in Edinburgh joined long queues to see the remarkable spectacle.

Retired teacher Judith Stenhouse, 70, from Loanhead, said: “The size of it took us completely by surprise.

“We’re so glad we came – the smell was a bit unpleasant but it’s well worth queuing up for.”

Alison Cleland, 60, from Granton, added: “I had to come and see and smell this amazing flower. It’s a one-off, and a big event for Edinburgh. It would be a shame to miss it.”