How to recreate stench of world's smelliest plant - if for some reason you want to

By Vicki Newman
smelliest plant split image

The world’s smelliest plant, the Amorphophallus titanum or titan arum, is so putrid it’s nicknamed “the corpse flower”.

Its unholy stench has been likened to the rotten flesh of dead bodies.

It blooms so rarely that not many people have been lucky – or unlucky – enough to experience the pungent odour.

But if for some reason, you feel like you’ve missed out, we’re going to teach you how you can recreate the smell at home.

Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

One of the stinky plants was unveiled at London’s Kew Gardens in 2018 and we went by for a sniff.

Staff at the botanical gardens said they thought there was a dead rat when they arrived the morning after the plant had fully bloomed.

Elisa Biondi, the Princess of Wales Conservatory Supervisor, said the name of the plant essentially means “gigantic misshapen penis”.

She added: “It’s pollinated by carrion flies, so that’s why it smells so bad – like rotting flesh.”

The smelly plant was also the subject of an episode of Guinness World Records podcast Behind the Book.

In the podcast, Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday explained that the plant’s alternative name titan arum was coined by famous TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who felt “he couldn’t even say the Greek word for penis on television”.

Craig tells the story of how the plant was first discovered in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari.

smelliest plant at kew gardens

He had met Charles Darwin while working at Kew Gardens, and just like him, embarked on a journey of discovery.

He headed to the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, where he found the Amorphophallus titanium and became the first person to describe it scientifically.

The plant’s smell is so strong that it can be smelled from up to half a mile away.

But despite its large size and pungent odour, the plant is incredibly hard to find in the wild.

It also looks very different when it’s not in bloom, and that can happen as infrequently as once a decade.

The plant has both male and female parts and its smell, as well as the heat it gives off through a process known as thermogenesis, attracts bugs that spread its pollen far and wide.

smelliest plant being measured

Craig has himself witnessed the blooming of an Amorphophallus titanium on two occasions, and he featured the record breaker in the 2020 edition of Guinness World Records.

Although he says since it wasn’t a “scratch and sniff” edition, we’d have to take his word for what it smells like.

He said scientists had used various techniques to try and pinpoint exactly what the plant smells of.

And that anyone keen to find out for themselves could easily recreate it at home.

Here are the steps:

• You’ll need a blender or food processor to mix it all up

• Pour a beer and let it go flat so the hops oxidize

• Or if you’d rather not waste your booze, find a smelly sock that’s not been washed for a while

• Add in some dimethyl trisulfide, a smell associated with faeces and cancerous wounds that can be found in Limburger cheese

• If you can’t find Limburger cheese, add in some cooked onions instead

• Next, crush in a clove or two of garlic

• Then add some rotten fish

smelliest plant in bloom

• Add some cough medicine

• And finally, whizz it all up together in your blender

 And just in case you felt inclined for some reason, Craig warns you should NOT drink the concoction.

The corpse flower also produces the largest corm, an underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ, is the tallest bloom, with one specimen measuring 3.1 m (10 ft 2.25 in) tall, and is one of three species to share the record for most thermogenic plants.

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