With the aroma of "overripe Camembert cheese on a bed of roadkill" a rare example of the world's largest flower burst into bloom Thursday in a Sydney hothouse. Visitors to Sydney's Botanical Gardens have described the scent of the Titan Arum, also known as Amorphophallus titanum, as like a room full of smelly socks, fish rotting, wet carpet, or a rotten banana. Alistair Hay, director of the Botanical Gardens Trust, had another opinion. "It smelled exactly like overripe Camembert cheese on a bed of roadkill," he said.

The flowers have been known to grow to nearly three metres high in their native rainforests of western Sumatra in Indonesia and come into bloom every two or three years in the wild, said Stevie King from the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust.

But this is the first time the plant has flowered in the garden on the banks of Sydney Harbor since it was planted as a seed in 1993.

"We had to learn how to propagate it," King said. "We have a joint conservation project going between the Trust and the Indonesian Botanic Gardens, and what we've got now is the first flowering."

Its name means "huge deformed penis," but its common Indonesian name is "bung bangkai," which roughly translates into "corpse flower," said Tim Entwistle, executive director of the Botanical Gardens Trust, who described it as a "big banana-shaped thing with this frilly skirt that opens up upside down."

The yellow flower, standing 1.32 metres tall, has attracted visitors all week long as it prepared to bloom, but not for its striking yellow central column - or spadix - or its crimson-and-green dishbowl-shaped petal - or spathe - but rather its stinking perfume.


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