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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Hot Stinking Misshapen Penis Death

Amorphophallus is a really cool genus of plants, though I’m realizing their downside as houseplants.

First, to get the giggles out of the way, yes, the word is derived the Greek meaning “misshapen penis,” which is a good description of their flowers. But the flowers only happen every once in a (sometimes very long) while. The rest of the time, they just make intricate, fractal-like, beautiful foliage.

Amorphophallus henryi, top view

That’s my Amorphophallus henryi last year. Even though it looks like lots of leaves, that’s actually just one leaf. I made this awesome timelapse of its hypnotic leaf dance as it emerged.

Amorphophallus come up from bulbs. Their schedule isn’t exactly yearly. Mine seem to come and go on their own schedule, with different bulbs of the same species breaking dormancy at different times. I find it fascinating that, somewhere in that bulb, a switch is thrown every time they break dormancy. Sometimes the spike that emerges is another treelike plant, sometimes it’s a flower. And that’s where the houseplant trouble begins.

Amorphophallus flowers are pollinated by carrion flies. As their name implies, their usual fare is dead stuff. So, to attract its pollinators, the Amorphophallus does its best to smell like rotting flesh. And over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution it’s become very good at it.

So this long, skinny flower is why I cannot currently sit comfortably in my living room. And it hasn’t even reached its peak yet.

Amorphophallus henryi flower

It’s beautiful, right? Just enjoy looking at it without smelling it. Unless you’re a carrion fly, in which case this is your best day ever.

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5 Responses

So, this is lots worse than Stapelia, then?

Posted by mr_subjunctive on 31 January 2013 @ 9pm

Haha! I feel you are lucky, for I am getting an A. konjac and paeoniifolius soon. If they flower for me sometime, well…They’ll be outside anyway. XD

Posted by PlantMan on 1 February 2013 @ 12pm

Mr. S: My Stapelia hasn’t bloomed yet, but from my experience with smelling them elsewhere, I’d say the Amorphs are more pungent.

Posted by Derek on 1 February 2013 @ 4pm

Yuck, Maybe its cool factor out weights anything else because it sure ain’t pretty.

Posted by Melanie on 1 February 2013 @ 8pm

How big is this flower? It’s hard to tell from the closeup, but the plant looks rather large. I’m just trying to picture whether you have a giant phallus or a small one in your living room…

Posted by Jenn on 14 February 2013 @ 9pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.