AFP - A "grotesque" plant that mimics the smell of rotting flesh to attract flies has gone on display in Wellington's Botanic Gardens.

The dracunculus vulgaris, commonly known as the voodoo lily, began flowering on Thursday and will emit a strong stench of putrid meat for about a week, botanic gardens general manager David Sole said.

"It's quite pretty when the flower begins to emerge, then becomes more grotesque," he said.

"A spadix (spike) about 700mm (27.5 inches) grows, it's a deep wine violet and smells like carrion."

Sole said the plant, native to the Aegean, originally belonged to a member of the public, who donated it to the botanic garden because of the overpowering odour.