Begonia House Lily at its Stinking Best

12 October 2012

It's dark purple, attracts flies and stinks. Wellington Botanic Garden's Dracunculus vulgaris lily is now flowering in the Begonia House.

Known as the voodoo lily, dragon arum, dragonwort, or stink lily, the plant looks beautiful but smells of rotting meat - a strategy to attract flies for pollination.

Originally from the Balkans and found too in Greece, the lily is a member of the arum family and closely related to another Begonia House 'stinker', the Amorphophallus.

The voodoo lily was given to the Botanic Garden by a contractor who had been working in the Begonia House when the Amorphophallus was in flower. He encountered the smell again while working at a house where the neighbour had dug up the voodoo lily because he couldn't stand the smell. The plant arrived at the Botanic Garden almost on its last legs, but is now thriving.

Botanic Gardens Manager David Sole says the flower has just opened and it has already started to smell - so he advises people to get there quickly for the full experience.

"The flower on this plant is around 700mm long and it will last about a week. It will be at its peak stinkiness today, though there is another coming on which should be in full flower early next week."

The Begonia House, including the shop and Picnic Cafe, is now mostly open after its earthquake strengthening work. However the tropical section will remain closed for up to another week.