What's That Awful Smell?

18 October 2011

The Devil's Tongue (Amorphophallus) plant in the Botanic Garden's Begonia House has started flowering and sending out waves of a truly revolting scent.

Devil's Tongue is a herbaceous perennial with a sinister-looking and evil-smelling flower. Although there are 90 species world-wide, it is a rare plant in New Zealand and doesn't flower often - it takes at least seven years to flower and then only flowers twice.

" It's both sinister and elegantly beautiful. It would look right at home in a vampire's house," says Botanic Gardens Team Leader Leanne Killalea.

"There's nothing beautiful about the smell though. In nature the plant is pollinated by flies so its strategy is to smell like a dead thing."

The odour comes in waves and changes slightly depending on the time of day, but mainly seems to consist of essence of dead hedgehog with an undertone of leather.

The flower itself only lasts for about a week so this is a brief opportunity for people to see and smell this special and revolting plant. It's not as tall as last year's but it is guaranteed to smell as bad.