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Native Plant Conservation

Reuters, August 7, 2008

Giant smelly flower puts on sex show in Belgium
Reporting by Marine Hass; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by David Brunnstrom

MEISE, Belgium - It's one of the world's largest flowers, it stinks of rotting meat or rancid cheese and looks very much like a giant penis.

The Amorphophallus Titanum -- literally "the giant strangely shaped penis" -- has been attracting big crowds at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium on the outskirts of Brussels.

The rare phallus-like flower that springs from the plant only survives about 72 hours and its timing is completely unpredictable, said Gert Ausloos, head of education at the garden.

Auloos called it "a botanical superstar". "It's there for a short time, it's glamorous, it's big, it produces something special ... it's star quality."

Also known as Corpse Flower, it releases a strong smell to attract pollinators, thought to be sweat bees.

Thousands queued to see -- and smell -- the 1.6 meter tall specimen on Thursday.

Visitors compared the smell to rotten fish, others to rotten meat or old cheese.

"It smells like a mix of rotten fish and rotten meat. It's quite impressive!" said visitor Frederic Lebreux.

"I don't know, maybe like a Camembert," said Rachel Kaiembe.

First discovered in 1878 in western Sumatra, the plant was first cultivated in Europe at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, in London in 1889. Because of its appearance, Victorian women were kept from viewing it.

© Thomson Reuters 2008

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton