Date: 
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 09:32

The world’s biggest, smelliest flower - the Titan arum - is about to bloom at the Eden Project in Cornwall and visitors will be given the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the stinky marvel.

For the first time ever, Eden is installing a special “stinky step” so brave visitors can climb up to get the full force of the icky inflorescence’s odour. They will be encouraged to share their thoughts on what it smells like on social media. Some people have compared previous flowerings to having a smell akin to rotting flesh, others to bad eggs.

A Titan arum typically grows for between seven and 10 years after which it is in full splendour for only 48 hours before starting to die. It gives off a distinctive, unpleasant smell to attract pollinators during this short time. Some specimens have been known to reach 3m (just under 10ft) in height when they flower.

This rare plant, whose Latin name is Amorphophallus titanum, is the eighth that has bloomed in Eden’s Rainforest Biome. All of them have been grown by the project’s resident Titan expert, Tim Grigg based at Watering Lane Nursery.

Tim said: “It’s very exciting to see this beautiful, rare - not to mention incredibly smelly – flower bloom at Eden. In the past, visitors haven’t been able to get the full force of its odour but with this new ‘stinky step’ they will be able to experience it first-hand.

“I’m really proud of the Titans I’ve grown and I enjoy sharing them with our visitors. They’re such an interesting plant and it’s important that we highlight how rare they are.”

Titan arums are notoriously difficult to propagate and are incredibly rare in the wild but, in his 14 years at Eden, Tim has become one of the world’s top Titan growers. Besides the ones that have already flowered at Eden, Tim looks after a small ‘forest’ of around 30 smaller specimens which are due to bloom in the next few years.

Once Titans reach their flowering stage, they grow incredibly quickly. The flower that is currently in the Rainforest Biome is currently 183cm high and growing at a rate of around 10cm a day. Last month, it was just a tiny sprout.

In his time working with the plants, Tim has propagated them using a variety of different techniques. In November 2007, he successfully pollinated a flower using a paintbrush attached to a bamboo cane with pollen he acquired from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Many of the young plants he currently looks after at the nursery were grown from this fruit. The Titan currently in the Biome came from a leaf cutting taken from a plant that flowered at Eden in February 2007.

Tim has also been exploring other ways to propagate Titans and will be trying a new technique on the plant that is about to flower. Instead of letting the flower die back, he plans to cut it off at the base once it starts to wilt, hoping it will preserve enough energy to flower up to four times again.

There are no sure things with the Titan, but this one is estimated to bloom this week. Visitors can keep an eye on its progress with a webcam at https://www.edenproject.com/visit-us/whats-here/rainforest-biome/titan-a....