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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
New Kew bloom causes a stink
BBC News
Enlarge image Enlarge image
The Amorphophallus titanum at Kew Gardens in London.

The world's biggest and most pungent bloom has burst into flower at London's Kew Gardens.

The huge crimson-coloured plant - known as Amorphophallus titanum - is said to smell of a mixture of excrement and rotting flesh.

Alongside the pungent aroma, the plant also boasts a distinctive look with giant red petals bursting out of a tall, phallic-like stem.

The vast A. titanum is currently growing at a rate of 10 centimetres (four inches) per day

And its foul smell has earned it the nickname "corpse flower".

Nigel Taylor, head of horticulture at Kew, told BBC News: "It does smell just like a dead carcass of an animal."

So strong is the smell that it can be picked up about a kilometre away. Fortunately, the plant's smell is only emitted every few hours.

Record breaker

It is given off to attract carrion flies, while the vivid coloured petals prove a magnet for bees.

The flower - also known as the Titan Arum - is the world's largest (in terms of sheer bulk). A giant lily, it grows in the rainforests of Sumatra.


It does smell just like a dead carcass of an animal

Nigel Taylor
It has made Kew a record breaker by blooming, which happens only very rarely.

Gardeners have been carefully nurturing this corm for six years in the hope of coaxing it into its amazing and dramatic fertility ritual.

Two of the horticultural team, Greg Redwood and Phil Griffiths, will attempt to fertilise the flower using pollen flown in by courier from the US and Germany.

Blooming limited

The pollination will take place when the flower is at its most pungent.

Despite its pong, the massive bloom is expected to attract a large number of spectators. When it last flowered at Kew, police were called in to control the crowds.

Blooming time is limited for the plant, and is only expected to last about three days.

It will then begin to wilt and eventually its seed bag will burst to expose bright red berries.

"It's the largest we've ever seen here - bigger than the previous flower at Kew, which generated interest all around the world in the mid-1990s," said Mr Taylor, who added that 49,000 people came to view the plant on that occasion.


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See also:

03 Aug 99 | Science/Nature
15 Feb 02 | England
14 Feb 02 | Business
23 Jul 99 | Science/Nature
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