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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
'Rotting flesh' flower in bloom
Titum Arum - Picture courtesy  Cambridge University Botanic Garden
The Titan Arum has been growing at a rate of 8-10cm per day
A giant blood-red flower which emits a nauseating stench of rotting flesh when in full bloom has begun to open.

At about 1400 BST on Thursday, the 1.6m high Titan Arum, which boasts the largest flower stalk in the world, began to burst into bloom.

The plant has been cultivated at Cambridge University's Botanic Garden for the past 20 years.

The flower is renowned for its odour, which is said to be a cross between burnt sugar and rotting flesh.

Scent 'an attractant'

The plant is so pungent it is known as the "corpse flower" in its native Sumatra.

Glasshouse supervisor Rob Brett said the atrocious smell attracts carrion beetles and blow flies, which pollinate the flower.

However he is confident the whiff will not put people off coming to catch a glimpse and a sniff.

"Over the bank holiday we had a 50% increase in the number of visitors.

"People are definitely interested in seeing it."

The bloom is very short-lived and lasts only two or three days.

Those who are too timid to brave the stench can watch the flower bloom via a webcam set up by the botanic garden.

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