Giant, smelly ‘corpse flower’ blooms in Edinburgh

Royal Botanic garden is housing the 'corpse flower'.
Royal Botanic garden is housing the 'corpse flower'.
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A giant specimen of one of the world’s biggest and smelliest flowers has come into bloom in Scotland.

The plant - named Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum - came into flower at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh (RBGE) late on Tuesday afternoon and it is still continuing to open.

It is the second time the plant has blossomed in Scotland, after first producing a flower at the Edinburgh gardens in 2015.

The RBGE has announced it is keeping its doors open late on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to allow visitors the chance to view the “rare” spectacle.

Titan arums are also known as corpse flowers because the horrendous odour they give off to attract pollinators is similar to that of decaying flesh.

Garden staff in 2015 dubbed the flower “New Reekie”, after Edinburgh’s historic nickname “Auld Reekie”, and its final measurement reached an impressive 267cm (8.75 feet).

The new flower, which first started to emerge in June, has been named “New Reekie 2” by staff.

A group of RBGE staff and volunteers, nicknamed the titan army, will be on hand during the evening viewing sessions to talk to visitors about the plant.

David Knott, curator of living collections at the RBGE, said: “It’s quite satisfying to see people being so interested in the plant.

“It’s great for the team here in the garden, cultivating the plant for the last 10 or 12 years, for it to flower for the second time in two years.

“It’s one of these iconic plants. The last time we expected an increase of visitors but I think even we were slightly surprised at the level of public interest in the plant.”

The plant’s native habitat is the equatorial jungles of western Sumatra in Indonesia.

Mr Knott said news of the blooming of the endangered flower comes with a serious conservation message.

He said: “There is a serious side to our work as well. Like so many plants in their natural habitats, its man’s pressure that’s having an impact.”

The garden has had the plant since 2003 when a corm (an underground storage bulb) was gifted to RBGE by Hortus Botanicus Leiden in the Netherlands.

After growing for seven years, in August 2010 the corm weighed in at 153.9 kg, setting a new world record.

It took five staff to hold the corm and they had to borrow scales from Edinburgh Zoo to weigh it.

In July 2011 the titan arum revealed itself as a leaf, growing at a rate of 10cm per day, and reaching a final height of 4.20 metres after 109 days. The glasshouse was barely tall enough to fit it in and the leaf squeezed itself up against the roof.