Titan Arum, a flowering plant that is famous for giving off the smell of a rotting corpse when in flower…. is in flower right now at Kew Gardens.

The plant is as notable for the rotting smell as for its inflorescence (flowering structure), which is one of the largest in the world, and can reach as much as 10 feet in height.

The plant’s scientific name in full is actually Amorphophallus titanum, which derives from the ancient Green for amorphos, “without form, misshapen” + phallos, “phallus”, and titan, “giant”. So basically, a giant misshapen penis, for reasons that become quite obvious when it’s in full bloom.

(c) Kew Gardens

The more commonly used name “Titan arum” was coined by Sir David Attenborough for his BBC series The Private Life of Plants, in which the flowering and pollination of the plant were filmed for the first time.

Attenborough felt that constantly referring to the plant as Amorphophallus on a popular TV documentary would be inappropriate, because the translation of the scientific name was considered “too rude” for television audiences.

Kew Garden’s titan arum has now bloomed in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, but the flower only lasts for 48 hours.

Fortunately, that’s this weekend, although you’d be best to scurry down tomorrow (Saturday) for the best whiff of rotting flesh.

Visits to Kew Gardens costs £17.75 per adult (other prices available).


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