Thousands have queued until 22:00 BST on Saturday 18 July & 19 July 2015 to see & smell the “tiny titan” flower that finally began to flower for the first time in 11 years at Cambridge University Botanic Garden.
The Gardens has a titan arum - Amorphophallus titanum - which first showed signs that it may begin to flower on 6 July. They have been through this before back in 2004 with a different specimen, so once again rigged up a webcam for live views and--sure enough--the site crashed due to demand.
Titan Arums are native to Sumatra, with a normal flowering weight of 15kg (33lb). The one that just flowered is below that weight--hence it's nickname--although you would not think so from the size. They flower rarely & only at night. The plant heats itself up to about 40℃ (104℉) and that then causes it to emit some sulphur-based smells. Prof Beverley Glover, director of the garden, said:-
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. The stink, which comes in pulses through the night, has been described as being like ‘rotten eggs’, ‘dead donkey’, ‘dirty laundry’ and ‘smelly feet’.
The whole thing only lasts for a couple of days, so you are going to have to wait another 11 years for the next one.
--------- Alex Kemp