For the first time in nearly 25 years, a rare “penis plant” has come into bloom at a botanical garden in the Dutch city of Leiden.
Experts believe that this is only the third time the aptly named Amorphophallus decus-silvae has bloomed in Europe. The plant is notoriously difficult to grow and requires a very warm, but only moderately humid environment, according to the botanical garden Hortus Botanicus of Leiden’s website.
A volunteer at the botanical garden originally planted the Amorphophallus decus-silvae, which is native to the jungles of Indonesia and Java, in 2015. After a more than six year wait, the plant—which blooms at intervals of up to 10 years—finally showed the first signs it was going to bloom in September. It finally did late last week, but only for a few days.
Amorphophallus decus-silvae is one of three so-called ‘penis plants,’ including the Amorphophallus titanum (also known as the “corpse flower”).
An Instagram post from the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden shows the uncannily vertical 6 and a half foot stem of the penis plant along with its ~1.6 foot inflorescence. While the rare sight of the blooming plant is no doubt a sign to behold, according to the botanical garden the plant also smells like rotting flesh.
“During female inflorescence, the spadix (the white, phallus-shaped part of the inflorescence) heats up and gives off a pungent odor associated with rotting flesh,” the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden wrote on its website. “Flies and other pollinators like this scent and flock to the plant.” The flies then pick up the plant’s pollen and transport it to other Amorphophallus decus-silvae.
“Because the plant itself is also rare and few botanical gardens have the Amorphophallus decus-silvae in their collection, observing a blooming plant is very special,” it continued. “In years when the plant does not bloom, it collects energy by only making leaves and storing food in tubers. After blooming, the leaf growth cycle begins again.”
The name of the plant attracted a large number of visitors to the botanical gardens, greenhouse manager Rogier van Vugt told Dutch broadcaster Omroep West. He also reportedly thought that the plant “does not really resemble a penis” only to later remark that it actually does kind of look like a penis.
“The name amorphophallus actually means ‘shapeless penis,’” van Vugt said. “But with a little imagination you can indeed see a penis in the plant. It has in fact a long stem and on top is a typical arum with veins. And then in the center there is a thick white spadix.”
The Hortus Botanicus of Leiden did not immediately respond to an email from Motherboard.