LONDON (Reuters) - The biggest, smelliest flower in the world was putting on the sexual performance of its life on Thursday after bursting into rare crimson blossom at London's Kew Gardens.
The 165-pound titan arum, the rotten-smelling giant of the plant kingdom, unfurled its single stinky flower after beginning a dramatic growth spurt last week," a Kew spokeswoman said.
"Last week the yellow shoot began to swell dramatically. It has now reached a height of almost three meters," she added.
"The huge phallic flower has now unfurled to reveal its blood-red interior...and the plant has begun to heat up, giving off a pungent aroma described as a mixture of rotting flesh and excrement."
Kew staff had nurtured the corm, or bulb, of the plant for six years in the hope of coaxing it into its dramatic fertility ritual.
The putrid smell, which has earned it the nickname "corpse flower" is crucial to its survival in the wild because it tells pollinating bees that the plant is in bloom. Once the bees alight on the flower, it closes in over them and keeps them trapped until they are covered in pollen. Kew head of horticulture Nigel Taylor said the blossom was the largest ever seen at the garden. The last flowering of the titan arum -- properly named Amorphophallus titanum -- attracted almost 50,000 people to Kew over one week in 1996.
Its flowering outside its native Sumatra is rare. There are only a handful of places around the world where it grows in cultivation and this is only the fifth time that one has bloomed at Kew since 1889.
Kew horticulturists Greg Redwood and Phil Griffiths will attempt to fertilize the titan arum using pollen flown in from America and Germany.
Kew will chart the flower's short life on its web site www.kew.org but those keen for a glimpse, or a whiff, in person must be quick. After three days, exhausted by its endeavor, the flower will begin to wilt.