'Catfished' by the smell of rotting flesh

With Halloween around the corner, The Straits Times explores some creepy science, from corpse plants to useful creepy crawlies. | Insects lured by promise of place to lay eggs provide plants free pollination services

A parasitic Rafflesia cantleyi flower on Tioman Island in Malaysia. PHOTO: CHUA SEK CHUAN Bulbophyllum medusae, an orchid named after the Greek monster Medusa, is one of a number of plants that smell of decay that can be found in Singapore.
Bulbophyllum medusae, an orchid named after the Greek monster Medusa, is one of a number of plants that smell of decay that can be found in Singapore.PHOTO: NPARKS
The native voodoo lily emits a putrid odour from late afternoon to attract potential pollinators. PHOTO: NPARKS
The native voodoo lily emits a putrid odour from late afternoon to attract potential pollinators. PHOTO: NPARKS
A parasitic Rafflesia cantleyi flower on Tioman Island in Malaysia. PHOTO: CHUA SEK CHUAN Bulbophyllum medusae, an orchid named after the Greek monster Medusa, is one of a number of plants that smell of decay that can be found in Singapore.
A parasitic Rafflesia cantleyi flower on Tioman Island in Malaysia. PHOTO: CHUA SEK CHUAN

Being "catfished" by fake profiles is common not just on the Internet, but in nature, too.

Culprits include "corpse plants", which smell of rotting flesh and reek of deceit. The scent of putrefied flesh emitted by the flowers of plants like the Rafflesia and the titan arum is "false advertisement", said Nanyang Technological University (NTU) botanist Shawn Lum.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline ''Catfished' by the smell of rotting flesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe