4 Jan 2020

'Elements of rotting meat, sewage': Plant's smell fails to deter sightseers

3:09 pm on 4 January 2020

A rare stinky flower that is blooming at the Wintergarden in the Auckland Domain has drawn a crowd.

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The flower's stench is not strong enough to mean visitors need a vomit bag, an expert says. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

The Amorphophallus titanum, more commonly known as the corpse flower, began to bloom yesterday and will start to close and collapse by tonight.

The giant flower stands about 2.5 metres tall. The petals are dark purple from the inside, and for those who walk closer, there are waves of an unpleasant smell.

Nick Lloyd, a tropical plant specialist at the garden, said it's an endangered plant that originated in Indonesia.

He said the one at the Wintergarden has only flowered twice - in 2013 and 2015 respectively - since it was brought here in 2008.

"It's not something you'd see in many gardens mainly because of its size.

"It's becoming a botanic garden staple - gardens that have Amorphophallus titanums show them off very proudly when they are blooming, especially because it flowers irregularly. It's not a common plant and it's such a short flower," he said.

Lloyd said despite the hyped corpse smell, people didn't need a vomit bag to come and see it.

"It's got elements of rotting meat, but also elements of sewage and sort of sulphurous gases as well. It's not horribly offensive but it's different," he said.

Vanda Lynden, a regular visitor, said the flower smelt like "rather old rubbish bins".

"I think it's stunning, amazing, unique," she said.

Lawrence Taylor said he was very keen to see the flower. He said it was beautiful and it smelt like "some meat that has started to go off".

"It will collapse, but I have had the opportunity to see it. It's very good," he said.

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Visitors are impressed with the plant's unique appearance and smell. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

A science teacher, Mikhal Stone, visited the garden with several friends.

"We have freezers of dead animals that we keep for dissection, and when the caretaker turns it off over the holidays, and when you come back and you've got to clean it out - it's that sort of smell," she said.

The Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the corpse flower, in full blossom at the Winter Garden in Auckland Domain.

A close up of the corpse flower in full blossom. Photo: Supplied / Nick Lloyd

Lloyd, the garden's specialist, said the staff members are trying to look after the plant as best they can.

"We're expecting to have bloomings every couple of years. We've had repairs to the house which means the heat is more constant now. We've also had repairs to our nursery, so we're able to look after these plants a bit better than we were a couple of years ago," he said.

A similar plant is also expected to bloom any time at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

'Corpse flower', Amorphophallus titanum, at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

The plant that is poised to bloom at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Photo: RNZ / Maree Mahony