A rare 5-foot-tall flower with an atrocious odor bloomed in Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden, where the smell was so bad the security guard wore a gas mask.

The titan arum, which flowered Wednesday and was fully opened Thursday, is only the sixth to bloom in the United States this century. One visitor said of the stench: "When you hit a possum, it smells that way on your tires."Two years ago, a titan arum that bloomed in London's Kew Gardens gave off a stink described as a mixture of rotting flesh, burning sugar and ammonia.

Spectators at Fairchild could see the flower unfold. It has a hollow central stalk called the spadix, and bumpy, reddish flowers are concealed at the base. The spadix, surrounded by a crinkled protective leaf called a spathe, feels like a cabbage leaf.

The titan arum is called the "corpse flower" in its natural environment, the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia, where they bloom every two or three years. Its aroma is produced to attract the attentions of the sweat bee, an insect that lives in Sumatra's rainforests.

Fairchild officials had said the flowers get up to 12 feet tall when fully opened, but this specimen topped out today at about 5 feet. Its glory will be fleeting, though, and by Friday, it could all collapse.