'Smells like rotten fish and dead bodies': Giant arum in bloom in Belgium

'Smells like rotten fish and dead bodies': Giant arum in bloom in Belgium
The giant arum. Credit: Belga

One of the largest plants in the world, which is known for its unique shape and its disgusting smell, has started to bloom in the botanical gardens of Meise in Flemish Brabant.

The giant arum slowly started opening on Friday at 2:30 PM and is expected to bloom for slightly under 72 hours, during which it will emit a one-of-a-kind smell.

"The smell is somewhere between that of a cadaver, rancid cheese and rotten fish. That is why the Indonesians call it the 'corpse plant'," the botanical garden's website states. 

The strong smell of the giant arum. Credit: Botanical Gardens of Meise

The plant has the largest unbranched inflorescence - a flower structure that consists of a cluster of smaller individual flowers - in the world, as it can stand up to 3 metres above the ground, and consists of a giant upright yellowish stem known as a spadix. The smell is emitted after the spadix warms up.

The endangered plant's unique shape is also recognised in its scientific name, Amorphophallus titanium, which literally means giant misshapen penis.

The flower was first discovered in 1878 in the steamy rainforests of Sumatra, an Indonesian island, by an Italian botanist named Odoardo Beccari, and is now kept in the glasshouse, as it requires high humidity and constant heat of at least 24°C.

The first flowering of a giant arum in Belgium took place from 5 to 7 August 2008 and attracted 8,000 spectators, and there have been five blooms since.

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