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.
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.
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.