Plant’s putrid odours sure to draw crowds

 Interested onlookers view the corpse plant at the Dunedin Botanic Garden yesterday.
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Interested onlookers view the corpse plant at the Dunedin Botanic Garden yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
What becomes so smelly and pungent that, almost despite yourself, you are drawn inexorably into its grimly repellent odours?

The Dunedin Botanic Garden is again the smelliest place in the city as the corpse plant (Amorphophallus titanum) reveals its rare and pungent bloom for just the second time.

Garden collection curator Stephen Bishop said the plant’s famously large and odorous flower was now blooming again, after a first appearance in early 2018.

The nauseating whiff from the world’s largest flowering structure has been compared to the smell of rotting flesh.

Not everyone is dying to sniff what is nature’s way of attracting insects for pollination, but for connoisseurs of the more elevated levels of putrid, the results are nothing to turn up one’s nose about.

"No matter how many times I see the corpse plant in flower, I never fail to be in awe of it," Mr Bishop said.

"It is indeed a spectacle of the plant world that I think everyone needs to experience, and outside of going to Sumatra, this is the closest we in Dunedin can get."

Otago Daily Times Nature File correspondent Anthony Harris said the smell of the world’s most southerly flowering corpse plant in 2018 had been "somewhat like carrion" but he would be back for more sights and smells over the weekend.

The spectacle is short-lived, lasting just 24 to 36 hours after the flower opens, but garden organisers are expecting more big crowds of viewers and smellers.

Mr Bishop said that any flowering of a corpse plant was "guaranteed to generate intense fascination". Thousands had visited in 2018.

The plant was now on display in the Winter Garden Glasshouse, viewing hours having been extended to 8am-8pm to cater for the expected strong demand.

"There’s not much time to see it, but it is definitely worth a visit," Mr Bishop said, given that no-one knew when it might flower again.

The plant was given to the Dunedin garden in 2008. For most of its life, it regularly produces a single leaf the size of a small tree.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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