Botanics will open at night to let people smell ‘corpse flower’

The giant Amorphophallus Titanum flowering.''Picture: Neil Hanna
The giant Amorphophallus Titanum flowering.''Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE ROYAL Botanic Garden Edinburgh will open at night to allow people to get a whiff of the world’s smelliest flower at its most pungent.

The giant Amorphophallus titanum (titan arum) is known as the “corpse flower” because of the reek of rotting flesh it emits in full bloom.

The exotic plant is due to burst in to flower within days, for only the second time in Scotland.

The smell is strongest when it first opens, which happens at night, and the odour subsides quickly.

Officials have now announced plans to open the tropical glasshouse at night specially to let people experience the peak of the pong.

Sadie Barber, RBGE senior horticulturist, said: “One of the things we learnt last time was that the famous smell, which gives the plant the name ‘corpse flower’, only lasts for a few hours when the flower first opens.

“As this happens at night we will be opening as late as possible on the night concerned to give our visitors the best chance of being part of the full stinky experience.”

The corpse flower is native only to the Bukit Barisan range of mountains in West Sumatra, where it is now classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants.

Made up of male and female flowers protected by a leaf-like wrapping called a spathe, the enormous central structure can reach over three metres in height, making it possibly the largest bloom in the world.

During its short flowering period it uses a “dead-meat” stench to attract pollinating insects such as carrion beetles and flies, which are drawn to the smell.

The smell itself is caused by a mix of gases emitted by the heating up of parts of the central flower spike at night.

The RBGE was gifted its specimen in 2003. The plant was nurtured in a special tropical glasshouse for 12 years before finally producing its first flower -- in a first for Scotland -- in 2015.

The stunning full bloom, which lasted for four days, was one of the tallest on record and measured 2m in diameter at its peak.

More than 20,000 people flocked to the attraction to experience the smelly spectacle.

It was expected to be several years before it bloomed again, but botanists monitoring the specimen -- which can reach nearly 3m tall -- are now seeing “significant changes” on a daily basis.

Growing at a rate of 10cm per day and currently stands at 1.5m in height.

Miss Barber added: “With the flower only lasting one or two days, we hope visitors who enjoyed the occasion -- and those who missed out last time -- will have the chance to see this truly amazing botanical spectacle.”

Amorphophallus titanum literally translates as “giant misshapen penis”.

The common name of titan arum was developed by Sir David Attenborough while filming The Private Life of Plants, as the Latin name was thought inappropriate for a BBC audience.