Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rare flower unleashes once-a-decade smell


It only happens once a decade or so - maybe longer - and anybody with a nose will tell you that's a good thing. A Devil's Tongue, or konjac to a botanist, has flowered at Wellington's Botanic Gardens, releasing a smell described as "rotten meat" into the air.

It is a rare event – thankfully – but one that has flower lovers equal parts eager and repulsed. Owner Charmaine Scott told news site she was relieved to have it off her hands when it flowered.

"My husband's really, really pleased I've donated it to the Botanic Garden for a couple of weeks because it stinks," Ms Scott said. "It just smells nauseating, it's pure dead hedgehog, honestly." In 2006, a Devil's Tongue flowered at Timaru's Botanic Gardens, after sitting dormant for 13 years.

Native to Southeast Asia and Africa, the plant releases its distinctive stink to attract flies, which it uses for pollination instead of bees. It only flowers for a few days at a time, and it can be decades between flowerings.

In the face of its stinky reputation, it is popular in China and Japan as a dietary supplement. In the US and some Asian countries, it is turned into dangerous jelly snacks that have been linked to several suffocation deaths.