Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Here at the Eden Project, in the world's largest rainforest in captivity,

  • one plant has been storing up its energy for years and years and years,

  • and it's just finishing releasing all that in one disgusting 48-hour period.

  • This is a corpse flower, and it smells like death.

  • It's a bit like a dead rat, mixed with rotten fish.

  • Some people describe it like a bin that hasn't been cleaned out for maybe two or three weeks.

  • It's the smell of decay.

  • These plants use flies and beetles the way many plants use bees: for pollination.

  • The smell of death: that's very attractive to flies and beetles

  • looking for somewhere to lay eggs.

  • These bloom only after it's managed to store enough energy,

  • and that can take anywhere between 7 and 10 years.

  • Titan arums bloom for just 48 hours.

  • On the first night, it can only receive pollen.

  • The second night, it releases pollen. It cannot self-pollinate.

  • Over time, evolution will move species towards strategies

  • with the greatest chance of reproductive success.

  • And on the face of it, the corpse flower's strategy doesn't seem that good:

  • just 48 hours every few years.

  • I mean, surely a better idea would be reproduce as often as possible.

  • And there are a lot of plants that do that, as anyone with hay fever knows.

  • But there is another possible strategy:

  • store up energy for years and years and years,

  • and then burn it all in a couple of nights

  • to send out a mating call so big that everyone can smell it for miles.

  • It uses heat to make the smell travel further.

  • These plants are thermogenic. They create their own heat.

  • And they go up to around body temperature.

  • It's able to send its scent way up above the canopy layer of the rainforest,

  • where it can catch a breeze.

  • And then insects can smell one of these in bloom over 3,000 metres away.

  • It's the same temperature as a dying animal,

  • and the smell is of rotting flesh. And -- if you come in here --

  • this colour, we normally see in the butchers'.

  • This is the colour of flesh.

  • So by many ways, it's trying to lure in those flies and beetles,

  • thinking that they've found a corpse.

  • Which does just leave us with the question of the smell.

  • Now, I got here a few hours too late,

  • it's apparently past its worst, but...

  • ...yeah. Yeah, okay. That's bad! That's...

  • Thank you very much to the Eden Project for inviting me here!

  • They've got a YouTube channel you can check out,

  • and they are open year round in Cornwall, in the south west of England.

  • [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]

Here at the Eden Project, in the world's largest rainforest in captivity,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it