Nine foot tall 'corpse flower' at Royal Botanic Garden reaches peak pungency as it blooms

Its scent has been described as rotting flesh, fish, sweaty gym socks and cheese, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of visitors making the trip to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh see the word’s most pungent plant.

Tuesday, 25th June 2019, 7:30 am
Titan Arum, the world's most pungent plant, has burst in to bloom, releasing a scent of rotting flesh. It is the third time that the plant has bloomed since it was received by RBGE and is officially the largest plant that the Botanics has ever owned Pictured is Tropical Botanist Mark Hughes

The Amorphophallus titanum, nicknamed “New Reekie”, bloomed for the third time on Sunday night after reaching an incredible nine feet tall.

It is the largest the plant has been since it was first gifted to RBGE in 2003 and has been growing at a rate of around 15cm per day.

To allow the public to access the plant at “peak pungency”, the greenhouse was open to brave visitors between 7pm and 10pm on Sunday as the plant is at its smelliest when it blooms on the first night.

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Titan Arum, the world's most pungent plant, has burst in to bloom, releasing a scent of rotting flesh. It is the third time that the plant has bloomed since it was received by RBGE and is officially the largest plant that the Botanics has ever owned Senior Botanist Kate Hughes takes a photo of the plant

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World’s smelliest plant to blossom for third time in Edinburgh

Tropical botanist Dr Mark Hughes said: “We have about 13,500 species in our collection but today the Titan Arum is getting all of the attention, exactly how it should be. Visitors have been brilliant, they’ve been absolutely fascinated by it even before it opened.

“We were trying to explain the plant to people and they’ve been stood there shaking their heads in disbelief and couldn’t believe that it had grown from the size of a cabbage to nine feet tall in four weeks.

“It’s absolutely amazing, people have loved it, it’s really quite remarkable.”

Native only to the Bukit Barisan range of mountains in West Sumatra, Indonesia, the botanical curiosity housed at RBGE is being used for conservation and educational reasons as well as to fascinate the public.

“We’re hoping to get some fertile seeds to make a mini stinking ‘Titan Army’.

“The pollination is a learning experience so we hope it pays off, we’re also trying to develop a set of genetic markers to understand the diversity that we’ve got and cultivation so we can set up a more informed breeding programme and make sure we understand what’s breeding with what and try and get more successful pollination.”

While the short bloom is at its pongiest on the first night, visitors will be able to catch a whiff of the unpredictable plant throughout this week.

Glasshouse Horticulturist Paulina Maciejewska-Daruk said: “The flower looks the best for about three days, the first day is the best looking then it begins to wither.

“Last time it flowered in 2017 it was a weekend and it was lovely weather and it lasted between seven and eight days, but this time the conditions are not the same so it may not last as long.”

“It’s a very rare plant and quite unusual; the physiology, life cycle, it’s amazing it never ceases to amaze you and it always has something up its sleeve!”