What’s All The Stink About?

By - March 15, 2011 (Updated: February 29, 2016)

The World's Largest Flower, the Titan Arum, at the Botanic Garden Meise, in Flanders, Belgium

The World’s Largest Flower, the Titan Arum, at the Botanic Garden Meise, in Flanders, Belgium

While many flower lovers in Belgium are eagerly awaiting forests full of beautiful bluebells and gardens awash with rainbow displays of tulips, I’m checking daily Facebook updates on a flower that smells like rotting meat.

The titan arum or Amorphophallus titanum (the giant deformed penis, I kid you not) is one of the world’s largest flowers. Its bloom can reach over 3 metres and only lasts for 4 days.

When fully open, the flower smells like rotting flesh, to attract pollinators, earning it the nicknames carrion flower, corpse flower, or corpse plant.


It is only found in western Sumatra, Indonesia, so the opportunity to see one in full bloom is rare. In fact, there have only been 100 recorded blooms, in cultivation, since the first, in 1889, at Kew Garden, in London. But it’s about to happen at the National Botanical Garden of Belgium in Meise, and those of us who are plant obsessed can’t wait to see (and smell) it.

So what’s the stink about this smelly flower?  You may not think the blooming of a stinky flower is much of an event, but when the titan arum bloomed, in Meise, in 2008, over 8000 people visited the garden, in 3 days.

This year, the titan arum has been drawing even more interest. The National Botanical Garden of Belgium has Facebook pages, in both French and Dutch, where they post photos and status updates for the giant plant each day.

This titan is being particularly coy. Normally, the plant flowers with 30 to 35 days of the bud appearing. Meise’s titan has been blooming and growing steadily for 50 days.

It has reached a height of over 230 cm.  The tallest titan bloom in cultivation, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was 274cm, achieved at The Botanical Garden at the University of Bonn, Germany, in 2005.

Here’s a 1-minute time-lapse video of a titan arum blooming at Kew Gardens:

If you aren’t excited by a giant smelly flower, there are still great reasons to visit the National Botanical Garden of Belgium.

This garden, close to Brussels, has the largest greenhouse in Belgium. It is situated in a 92-hectare park, with 18000 varieties of plants. There are roses, rhododendrons, magnolias, an Iris garden, hydrangeas among many other favourites. You can also visit the orangery, medicinal plant garden, and various greenhouses.

Poppies at The National Botanical Garden of Belgium

Poppies at The National Botanical Garden of Belgium

Iris at The National Botanical Garden of Belgium

Iris at The National Botanical Garden of Belgium

In the centre of it all is Bouchout Castle which is often open to the public for special exhibitions.

Bouchout Castle at The National Botanical Garden of Belgium

Bouchout Castle at The National Botanical Garden of Belgium

An outing to the National Botanical Garden of Belgium is a lovely way to pass a day outside the hustle and bustle of Brussels – Even when it doesn’t smell of rotting meat.

National Botanic Garden of Belgium
Bouchout Domain
Nieuwelaan 38
1860 Meise

View National Botanical Garden of Belgium in a larger map

The Gardens open at 9:30 am and close at 5 pm until the end of March. From April to September they close at 6:30 pm. Admission is 5€ for adults.

To follow the progress of the titan arum, like the French or Dutch Facebook page.

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 3 hours ago


  1. Comment by Leigh

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Leigh March 17, 2011 at 04:04

    I love that Titan Arum – I’ve seen smaller Arums in Vancouver but nothing that size.
    I love visiting botanical gardens and nurseries – without my husband who says it’s worse than getting a root canal. In fact in jest he has started a group- figure I should take it to Facebook. It’s called HAGS – Husbands against gardening.
    BTW We’re about a month behind last year in Vancouver for flowers – with only the odd daffodil blooming and my early season white rhodo just starting.
    Beautiful shots as always.
    Would you ever do online photography courses or in class only?

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison March 17, 2011 at 10:44

      Thanks Leigh! Oh don’t tell Andrew about your husband’s group… I may loose my tripod carrier 🙂 He’s patient about it but it’s certainly not his favourite thing. He’d rather tramp around battlefields. Things are a bit late blooming here too after the cold winter we had but it’s finally starting to feel like spring. Hopefully when we’re back from India everything will be blooming.

      We’re still watching Vancouver flights but the prices refuse to drop so there may be no TBEX for us this year 🙁

      Re: Photo courses. Do you mean giving classes or taking them? I’ve taken only in person classes but I still do a lot of research online of new techniques etc. As for giving them myself, I’ve considered doing both and/or photo tours. I just need to find some people who are interested.

      • Comment by Leigh

        Alison Cornford-Matheson

        Leigh March 17, 2011 at 18:20

        Try checking flights to Seattle and let me know what you decide by mid April.

        I was referring to online photography courses – would you recommend or am I better off going to a real classroom?

        • Comment by Alison

          Alison Cornford-Matheson

          Alison March 18, 2011 at 09:32

          I think the ability to have someone there with you while you shoot, giving pointers and feedback right away is very valuable. I think on-line is a great way to pick up things like post-processing but for the actually photography side of it, I would choose an in person class if you can. In the end it all comes down to the teacher.

          Will watch Seattle flights too and let you know as soon as we’re back from India, but as I said before if you need the space for someone else please feel free. We don’t want to hold you up 🙂

Comments are closed.

Go top