'Corpse flower' likely to die days after blooming

Research associate Dr Axel Dalberg Poulsen examining an Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum, one of the world's biggest and smelliest flowers, which has bloomed at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. he rare flower said to smell like rotten flesh could die within 48 hours - just days after coming into bloom. Picture by Jane Barlow, PA Wire 
Conor Riordan, Press Association

A rare flower said to smell like rotten flesh could die within 48 hours - just days after coming into bloom.

"New Reekie" flowered on Tuesday and began giving off the distinctive smell which earned it its local Indonesian name of "corpse flower".

Staff at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh have been nurturing it for more than 12 years for it to reach this state.

But if pollination proves successful, it is likely to only last for 48 hours before dying.

Research associate Axel Dalberg Poulsen said: "When it fully opened the smell was really very strong.

"It's fishy. In some parts of the room it is more like seaweed.

"It has also been called the corpse flower, so it's definitely the rotten flesh business we are into."

When the plant first flowered in June 2015, around 19,000 people visited the Lowland Tropics House to see the first flowering of an Amorphophallus titanum in Scotland.

This time the plant will be pollinated, and if it successfully fruits, the plant will most likely die within one or two days.

Mr Poulsen added: "If you were here a month ago, next to this pod, there will have been a tiny thing sticking out of the ground.

"Some days it extended more than 10cm in 24 hours, so this is fascinating.

"The whole structure is so fascinating and the smell is so horrific on the opening night.

"That's why so many thousands of people want to come and see it every time that it opens."

The plant - also known as titan arum - will either create a leaf or a floral structure, but never at the same time.

Beneath the soil of the flowered plant is a bulb which weighs several hundred kilos.

Titan arum belongs to the same family as the peace lily and is the largest in that species' group.

A fully grown leaf plant can reach 10 metres, while the tallest floral structure can hit more than three metres.

The plant was discovered in 1878 during an expedition in Sumatra, Indonesia.

It flowers infrequently in the wild and even more rarely when cultivated.

Botanists have been working to increase the genetic pool and look after cultivated plants, with fears raised over its natural habitat.

Mr Poulsen said: "The problem is the deforestation rate is extremely high. Conservation issues in the field are at least very worrying."

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