A giant plant that smells like rotting meat and has a Latin name that loosely translates to “huge deformed penis” is just the sort of botanical character you’d expect to land a starring role in its own live web feed.

Meet Alice the Amorphophallus, a unique plant currently blooming at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where crowds have turned up in the thousands to see (and smell) the rare floral spectacle. The event even has its own live YouTube feed! Not bad for something that looks like a huge … er … lighthouse.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, Alice is no ordinary garden-variety flower. Native to the rainforests of western Sumatra, the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) or corpse flower (not to be confused with parasitic plants in the Rafflesia genus that have also earned this macabre common name) has a leaf structure that can reach heights of over six metres (20 feet) and would not look out of place on the set of Jurassic World.

Titan arums do not flower regularly and it can take ten years for the plant to reach the size required to support a bloom. The event should last 24-36 hours during which time Alice’s meaty stench will be at its most potent, attracting carrion-eating beetles and flesh flies that will pollinate the flower.

A deep reddish purple hue and fleshy texture add to the illusion that the spathe (the curly leafy bit supporting the flower cluster) is a chunk of meat. The plant's spadix even reaches temperatures similar to the human body, helping to enhance its malodorous lure and maintain the meaty disguise.

And in case you’re having trouble imagining the putrid odour, the smell is a pungent cocktail of smelly cheese (dimethyl trisulfide), rotting fish (trimethylamine), sweaty socks (isovaleric acid), mothballs (indole), sweet tar (phenol) and garlic (Dimethyl disulfide), with a fragrant floral scent (benzyl alcohol) to top it all off. Delightful.

If you want to witness Alice in the flesh, head to the Chicago Botanic Garden (be aware that there my be a long queue: everybody is hoping for a glimpse and a whiff of this botanical celebrity, so be sure to check the garden's Facebook page first), or you can watch the live feed on YouTube or follow #CBGAlice on Twitter.

Here's a little more on the science behind the corpse flower's smell ...

Header image: Mike Ball/Flickr