World's largest (and smelliest) flower set to bloom in Belgium this week

World's largest (and smelliest) flower set to bloom in Belgium this week
The giant arum flower flourishing in 2020. Credit: Belga/ Laurie Dieffembacq

Later this week, the largest — and also the smelliest — flower in the world, the giant arum, will once again bloom in the Meise Botanic Garden in Flemish Brabant, just north of the Atomium.

Although a beauty to behold, the giant arum or amorphophallus titanum is also known for its very distinct and strong smell of rotting flesh.

"A new flowering of the giant arum (Amorphophallus titanum), the largest 'flower' in the world, is announced in Meise Botanical Garden! A visual and olfactory spectacle not to be missed!" the Botanic Garden wrote on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.

The smell of the plant is described by the botanical garden’s website as somewhere between that of a cadaver, rancid cheese and rotten fish. "That is why the Indonesians call it the ‘corpse plant'." The smell is meant to attract insects.

The full bloom usually lasts only two to three days and tends to attract thousands of visitors to Meise. The giant arum is very rare, it is usually only found in the wild tropical forests of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The flowering plant can grow to a height of three metres and has the largest unbranched inflorescence — a flower structure that consists of a cluster of smaller individual flowers — in the world. Last year, two of the large plants opened, however, just one giant arum is expected to bloom this year.

The flower is known for its very distinct smell. Credit: Belga/ Laurie Dieffembacq 

"The four others either still have a large leaf hanging at the top, or are not yet sufficiently dormant to flower," Koen Es, botanist of the Meise Botanical Garden, told Belga News Agency. "Therefore, we can say with certainty that we will only see one plant in bloom this year."

Meise, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, will keep its doors open longer during the blooming period so more people can visit the spectacle.

People wishing to be notified once the flower starts blooming can sign up here to receive an email about the event.

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