Cambridgeshire

Cambridge University titan arum flower attracts crowds

Titan arum Image copyright CUBG
Image caption The titan arum finally bloomed late on Saturday afternoon

Thousands of people have queued up for a chance to smell the "stench of rotting flesh" given off by a rare "corpse flower".

A titan arum finally flowered on Saturday for the first time in 11 years at Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

The bloom lasts just two days days and emits its smell to attract pollinators.

A webcam trained on the plant as it prepared to open was so popular it crashed, and 1,000 visitors arrived in the first few hours after it bloomed.

Image copyright CUBG
Image caption People queued late into the night when the garden announced its plant had bloomed
Image copyright Dr Paul Coxon

The titan arum - Amorphophallus titanum - took its time to open, having first shown signs it might bloom on 6 July.

'Atrocious stench'

In the past week fans have been on "flower watch", with vast numbers logging on to view the live webcam, eagerly waiting for signs of the massive flower finally opening.

When another specimen flowered in 2004 at the garden, about 10,000 people turned up to see it, with a further 250,000 enjoying the spectacle via webcam.

Image copyright CUBG
Image caption A view of the interior of the titan arum
Image copyright CUBG
Image caption The plant thrilled staff when it eventually started to open

This latest specimen has been nicknamed "Tiny Titan" as it is well below the normal flowering weight of 15kg (33lb).

It finally began to bloom late on Saturday afternoon.

The pungent plant emits its foul odour mainly at night by heating itself up to about 40C (104F).

Image copyright Dr Clive Oppenheimer
Image caption Volcanologist Dr Clive Oppenheimer is using thermal imaging to monitor the temperature of the plant

"The heat helps to distribute sulphurous compounds - the atrocious stench - across vast distances in its native Sumatra to lure its pollinators, thought to be carrion beetles and blowflies," Prof Beverley Glover, director of the garden, said.

"The stink, which comes in pulses through the night, has been described as being like 'rotten eggs', 'dead donkey', 'dirty laundry' and 'smelly feet'," she added.

However, staff are keen to know what visitors think, and are collating these "smells" via Twitter @CUBotanicGarden using #tinytitan.

Image copyright Twitter

The Botanic Garden will be open until 22:00 BST to enable visitors to smell titan arum "at its night-time stinkiest".

Image copyright Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Image caption The titan arum began to show signs of flowering for the first time on 6 July

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