A beauty beyond the smell

What’s that smell? Imagine you smelled something awful, like rotting flesh, and looking around for the source, you find not a decaying roadkill, but a flower…?

How confused you must be — unless you’re in Indonesia. The country is home to three of the world’s smelliest flowers: the Amorphophallus titanum (Corpse Flower), the Rafflesia arnoldii (Corpse Lily) and the Amorphophallus konjac (Devil’s Tongue or Voodoo Lily).

Notorious for their stench, scientists have analysed their unique odours and found they stem from combinations of molecules that resemble decomposing meat. In bloom, the flowers give out these odours to attract insects for pollination.

Despite their fetid smell, the flowers are not shunned, but actually embraced when they come into bloom.

Due to the sensitive growing conditions these plants require — warm temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius, good indirect sunlight, damp soil, and sufficient space, seeing one of them flower in the wild or even a cultured environment can be difficult.

And they are all the more rare because they do not bloom often; the Corpse Flower can bloom anywhere between two and ten years, the Corpse Lily blooms just once a year (if at all), and the Devil’s Tongue blooms every few years.

Further, when they do bloom, they only last a few days before collapsing — you can imagine people would flock to see any of these flowers bloom.

Besides being curious wonders, these plants have also been used in traditional medicines and as health remedies.

The Corpse Flower’s crom (underground storage organ) for example, is used to treat stomach ailments, diarrhoea, and fever. Women use the buds of the Corpse Lily to help stop bleeding and shrink the womb after giving birth.

The crom of the Devil’s Tongue is the source of a grey, gelatinous substance known as “konjac”, or “konnyaku”. Consumed, it keeps blood sugar and cholesterol levels low, and help with weight loss.

At first glance — or smell — one might think that the plants have nothing more than stinking flowers. However, there’s clearly more to them than one might think. Don’t let your biases interfere with your judgement about anything, whether it’s flowers, or your investments. At Eastspring, our investment professionals look for opportunities that arise from investors’ short-term behavioural biases. You can find out more at www.eastspring.com