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Rare ‘Penis Plant’ Species Blooms After 20 Years

Garden visitors visit the penis plant

The plant emits an odor that smells like "rotting flesh" when it flowers.


In a greenhouse at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, a rare, phallic-shaped plant has flowered. Known as the penis plant, the species has only bloomed in Europe three times -- the last time being in 1997.

The penis plant currently in bloom at the university was planted six years ago by garden volunteer Rudmer Postma, according to a press release by the university's botanical garden, Leiden Hortus Botanicus.

Employees at the garden noticed the plant's flowering bud in September. The bud grew to be more than 3 feet tall, with a stem more than 6 feet high.

The penis plant's scientific name is Amorphophallus decus-silvae, and it's native to Indonesia. The plant requires a very warm and humid environment to bloom -- which explains why it hasn't bloomed often in Europe, much less the Netherlands.

Predicting when the plant will flower is hard, but the smell of the flower can't be missed even if it doesn't bloom completely. The flowering process has two parts. In the first, part of it heats up and begins emitting a smell the university compares to "rotting flesh." Pollinators, such as flies, are attracted to the smell. The penis plant then flowers and produces pollen, which covers the insects.

Since there's not another penis plant in Leiden, the garden will send the plant's pollen to a garden that does.

"It didn't smell very bad yet, but (the odor) got more intense in the afternoon," garden volunteer and yoga teacher Roos Kocken said in a TikTok video she posted last week as the plant began to bloom.

Larger Amorphophallus plants don't bloom for several years, Susan Pell, the deputy executive director of the U.S. Botanical Garden, told CNN.

"That bloom is just using up all of the energy that's been stored in that corm. And so in order to bloom again, that corm has to produce a series of leaves over ... somewhere between probably three and 10 or 12 years in order to get enough energy built back up in the corm to support a bloom, which really occupies that corm for more than a year," Pell said.

A relative to the penis plant is the corpse plant, or Amorphophallus titanum, which is also known for its putrid smell.

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