Cambridgeshire

'Bizarre' Cambridge plant emits 'Brussels sprouts' smell

The Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis orchid Image copyright Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Image caption The orchid is originally from the island of New Guinea and its aroma is usually stronger in the afternoon

Visitors to a university garden have been warned to expect a "bizarre and unique" orchid to emit a smell of rotting cabbages and Brussels sprouts.

Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis is due to bloom at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden by Monday.

Alex Summers, glasshouse supervisor, said the smell of the rotting vegetables "challenges our general idea of what a flower is".

The plant, originally from Asia, flowers every three to four years.

Image copyright Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Image caption Alex Summers compared the orchid's aroma to that of Christmas dinner favourite Brussels sprouts - albeit in their rotting form
Image caption The western half of the island of New Guinea is part of Indonesia, while the eastern part is the country or Papua New Guinea

The Botanic Garden's specimen is suspended over a pool in the wetlands house and "the smell oscillates so it gets stronger and weaker at different times", Mr Summers said.

The aroma comes from "mimicking something that is rotting, and it is doing that to attract carrion flies, which are insects that feed on rotting meat and vegetables" he added.

He expected it to be fully open and at its "best" on Monday afternoon.

The garden's Titan Arum plant bloomed in June 2017, attracted hundreds of visitors to smell an aroma which is akin to rotting flesh.

Image copyright Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Image caption The Titan Arum, known as the "corpse flower", bloomed in 2004 and 2017

The horticulturalist said it will not be as strong as that, but will prove popular with visitors as "we all expect flowers to smell nice".

"I think it's exotic - different - as it challenges our general idea of what a flower is," he said.

The plant is about 10 years old, is expected to survive for another 50 years and flower every three to four years.

"It is such a bizarre and unique species and it is completely different to anything I have seen before."

Image copyright Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Image caption The orchid would not be blooming without the help of volunteer Phil Gould, said Alex Summers, who waters, re-pots and feeds the plants

The garden is open from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sunday and Monday and will then be closed until 2 January.

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