Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 17:17

A giant, smelly plant at the Eden Project is being hailed as Britain’s biggest flower ever after bursting into bloom overnight.

The freaky plant, known as the Titan Arum, or “corpse flower” (Latin name Amorphophallus titanum), has reached the amazing height of 2.91m (9ft 6ins) in the last few hours.

Gardeners in the Rainforest Biome at Eden have been watching and waiting to see if it would break the world record of 3.10m set in New Hampshire, USA.

It is now thought that the mighty Titan has reached its zenith, meaning it is just short of being the tallest in the world, but Eden is today checking to confirm it is the biggest ever grown in the UK.

As well as being the world’s biggest flowering plant, it is also the smelliest as it goes into the final phase of its six-year life when it gives off a pungent odour, reminiscent of rotting flesh.

Eden’s Rainforest Biome supervisor Hetty Ninnis said: “The Titan is causing a sensation among visitors and the team today. It is huge and now it is in its full inflorescence, strangely beautiful.

“It is a true freak of nature, stunning to look at and foul-smelling at the same time. Anyone who wants to see it in its full glory will have to be quick because it will flop over and start to rot in the next few days.”

The Titan has taken six years to get to its current height and, before flowering, was growing at a staggering 17cm (5ins) a day. It will bloom for only two to three days before dying.

The tuber from which this specimen has sprouted weighed in at a staggering 120kg, the biggest ever harvested at Eden.

This is only the fifth Titan to have bloomed at Eden. Eden’s resident expert Tim Grigg used his plant skills to get it to flower in time for the Freaky Nature activities which are taking place around the Bodelva site until Sunday June 5.

The Titan is just one exhibit in Freaky Nature, an amazing showcase of the weird and wonderful world of plants. Visitors can check out interactive exhibits and discover the ingenious tricks plants have come up with to help them survive.

Tim, who is based at the Eden Project’s Watering Lane Nursery, has established himself as one of the world’s top experts on the plants, having successfully pollinated and propagated Titans since he nurtured Eden’s first specimen to flower in 2005. He currently has just under a hundred examples of the plant in various stages of development.

The plant hails from Sumatra and is a distant relative of the ‘lords and ladies’, a British lily. It is distinguished by its yellowy, fleshy spike known as a spadix. This is wrapped in a single cream leaf which, when opened, reveals a rich crimson inside.

When the plant is ready to attract pollinators, the spike heats up and gives off the smell which disgusts humans but is very attractive to insects. It then develops the fruit which attracts birds.