Human Flower Project
Monday, September 27, 2004
Nose-Gays, They’re Not
Stories from Malaysia and Australia disagree on “the world’s biggest flower,” except how it smells.
Put a handkerchief over your nose and send up a muffled cheer.
Titum Arum, the world’s biggest flower, has bloomed for only the second time in Australia. Officials at Sydney’s Botanic Garden Trust are thrilled and choking. “It has the smell of rotting fish,” says executive director Tim Entwhistle.
Amorphophallus titanum looks like its Latin name, an excited giant, and can grow as large as 2.9 metres. It blossoms slowly and should climax about October 7. Check out the United States Botanic Garden’s specimen that bloomed in July.
The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) reports today on a different flower, Rafflesia, claiming it’s “the world’s biggest.”
“The flower has been used for centuries by the Orang Asli as a remedy for internal injuries, and is especially prescribed for women after they give birth.” The expanding interest in herbal remedies has set off a collecting spree, so that now some local healers worry that the plant may become endangered. Law permits the Orang Asli to harvest the rafflesia buds even in protected areas, but with prices for the plants ascending, some tribespeople are selling to middlemen.
Rafflesia blooms look like the flower babies in the Land of Oz. Only a metre in diameter, they can’t hold a candle, as it were, to Titum Arum. Except they smell like dead meat, too. Eau de Carrion, anyone?