The scent of one of the world’s smelliest plants is going head to head with a bouquet of fragrant blooms in a battle of the senses at the Eden Project.
As peak spring hits Cornwall, spectacular but stinky dragon arums are shooting up across the Mediterranean Biome in their biggest show ever at Eden. The flower’s aroma – likened to rotting flesh – is counterbalanced by a galaxy of famously aromatic plants including stocks, or Matthiola, and evergreen jasmine, or Trachelospermum, evoking the smell of summer with a gorgeous coconut scent.
Intensely-scented centifolia roses which are used in perfumes are also bursting into flower and there is a last chance to catch fragrant freesias. Lavenders are adding to the array of sweet perfumes.
The bizarre-looking dragon arums, or Dracunculus vulgaris, are closely related to the giant corpse flower and Eden speciality the Amorphophallus titanum, and share their gigantic cousin’s unique smell, designed by nature to attract pollinating insects.
Catherine Cutler, Mediterranean Biome Supervisor, said: “This is a wonderful time to see and smell our beautiful spring blooms which are in such contrast to our magnificent but smelly dragon arums. It’s a real feast for the senses.”
The dragon arum originates from Greece, Turkey and Algeria and has been given its common name because its purple flower spike looks like the tongue of a fire-breathing dragon and its distinctly-shaped leaves resemble claws.
It can grow to heights of more than a metre tall and produces flowers up to 45cm long but only blooms for a few days a year. Flies attracted by the intense smell become trapped in the plant and cover themselves in pollen while trying to escape.
The leaves of Dragon Arum have been used to preserve cheese and, according to folklore, liquor made from the plant can be rubbed onto hands for protection when handling snakes in the wild.
While Eden is abundant in scented flowers, not all of its botanical wonders are known for their aroma. The central bed in the Mediterranean Biome has a kaleidoscopic array of intensely-coloured but unscented Persian buttercups or Ranunculus bulbs which are in full bloom now.
See full details of horticultural highlights at Eden on www.edenproject.com