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10 Most Unusual Flowers

Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum)

As bad as the corpse lily smells, the Titan Arum is even worse. It's earned the title "worst smelling flower in the world." In its native Sumatra, it's called "bunga bangkai" or "corpse flower" because of the odor of rotting flesh that it emits. Like Rafflesia arnoldii, the Titan Arum relies on flies and beetles to pollinate it. But that's where the similarities end.

Where the corpse lily creates a giant flower without supporting structure, Titan Arum creates a giant structure that conceals thousands of flowers. The plant grows from a large tuber that can weight from 55 to 110 pounds (25 to 50 kilograms). The flowers emerge when the tuber is dormant. The plant then produces a large, petal-like leaf, the spathe, which forms a vase. The outside of the spathe is green; the inside is the color of red meat. From the center of the vase, a tapered column-like stem (spadix) grows straight up, reaching heights of 6 feet (2 meters) or more with a 3-foot (1-meter) diameter [source: University of Connecticut].

The base of the spadix supports thousands of smelly inflorescences hidden inside the spathe. Rows and rows of yellow male flowers grow above rows and rows of red female flowers. The spathe begins to open at night, leading researchers to believe that it relies on nocturnal flies and beetles for pollination. The smell is strongest for the first twelve hours it's open. The spadix gives off heat, possibly to further imitate a dead and decaying animal. The metabolic heat may also serve to spread the stench farther afield to lure in pollinators.

Although it's not noted for smelling like a corpse, the flower on the next page is known as the flower of the dead.