Devils tongue lilies put on smelly double act

17 October 2014

Two devil’s tongue lilies are making their evil presence felt by flowering together and doubling the stench of rotting meat in the Wellington Botanic Garden’s Begonia House.

Amorphophallus - Devils toung lily

The Devils tongue lily

The sinister-looking lilies are known as Amorphophallus konjac, but have been dubbed the ‘Stinky Boys’ by Botanic Gardens Visitor Services Officer Charmaine Scott. The beautiful velvety black-maroon lilies send out an odour in waves that’s been described as rotting meat, decay or sewage. This is to attract flies for pollination. They have also been called voodoo lily or snake plant.

The lilies originate in south-east Asia, but there is one variety native to Australia. Every year in late spring they push up a single, spotted leaf stem. The leaf, nearly as wide as it is tall, lasts 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. The Begonia House pair are around 60cm tall.

Charmaine says the lilies grow well indoors but take around seven years to flower. “When they do, you can’t miss it,” she says. “This year their double act is really something special – and they always attract visitors. People seem to enjoy being revolted.”