Stinky Lily Joins the Spring Festival Fun

26 September 2013

Just when Wellington Botanic Garden is doing its best to impress, a Begonia House lily has pushed its evil way into the Spring Festival action.

The sinister-looking devil’s tongue lily, or Amorphophallus, is looking ready to flower this weekend just as Spring Festival starts. The velvety black-maroon lily looks beautiful but smells of ‘essence of dead hedgehog’. Botanic Garden staff have dubbed it ‘Mr Stinky’.

The lily originates from south-east Asia, though one variety is native to Australia. Every year in late spring it pushes up a single, spotted leaf stem. The leaf, nearly as wide as it is tall, sits there happily all summer and then collapses in autumn.

The flower spike can come up at any time, but not while there’s a leaf. The flower takes several days to open fully and the rotting meat smell is a strategy to attract flies for pollination.

Botanic Gardens Visitor Services Officer Charmaine Scott says a visit to the lily will provide a nice contrast to the beautiful tulips and spring blossom. “We estimate it will be flowering this weekend and by Tulip Sunday the smell is likely to be at its worst.”

She says the lily grows well indoors but takes around seven years to flower. “Then when it does, you will wish it hadn’t because you will have to move out or put the lily in a shed to get away from the stench.”

Spring Festival kicks this weekend with Tulip Sunday and its display of 25,000 blooms, followed by a week of more than 30 special events for visitors of all ages.