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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
World's largest flower opens
Titan arum flowering at Kew Gardens, UK
The flower attracted large crowds when it bloomed in Kew Gardens, UK
One of the world's largest and smelliest flowers is about to bloom in the United States.

And, for those with a faint-hearted disposition, it can be viewed from a safe distance - via the internet.

Titan arum
Latin name Amorphophallus titanum
Native to rainforests of central Sumatra, Indonesia
First blossomed under cultivation in England in 1889
A webcam (see link on the right hand side of this page) is trained on the plant - the Titan arum, or "corpse flower" - at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Botany Greenhouses.

The emerging bloom, which could reach a diameter of more than a metre (four feet), is only the twelfth recorded in the US.

Despite the flower's putrid smell, that can be detected from half a mile away, the spectacle usually attracts thousands of curious people.

'Wonderful gift'

When a similar specimen flowered at Kew Gardens, London, UK, police had to be called in to control the crowd.

The US flower is already attracting many visitors, and more are expected to converge on the greenhouse, as the flower opens up.

"It's very exciting. We've babied it for a long time," said Mohammad Fayyaz, director of the Botany Greenhouses, where the plant has been kept for the past seven years.

"I'm fascinated by this beast. It's a wonderful gift from the plant kingdom."

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