(ABC4) – For the first time in over 20 years, people living in the Netherlands will have the pleasure of watching an extremely rare plant blossom right in their own backyard which is actually a tropical greenhouse in the city of Leiden.
The Netherlands is home to one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, The Hortus Botanicus of Leiden, which has recently brought attention to itself for housing the blossoming of the Amorphophallus decus-silvae.
The Amorphophallus decus-silvae, also known as the “penis plant,” has only flowered two previous times in Europe, according to the gardens plant expert
Back in 1993 and 1997, the flower bloomed as the same species but as a different plant during its lifetime at the Leiden Hortus.
The plant growing right now is 6-years-old and was grown by a garden volunteer named Rudmer Postma. The flower bud was spotted in mid-September and in a short amount of time, has grown into a two-meter-long stem with an inflorescence of about half a meter.
Very few botanical gardens have this particular species in their collection, due to the fact that the plant can only bloom in very specific conditions: a very warm and fairly humid environment, which is what makes it extremely rare.
According to the Botanical Garden, it is difficult to predict exactly when the plant will flower. It is the smell of the flower which reveals whether it blooms or not. Once it blooms, the plant has to undergo two phases. The first one is female and the second one is male.
In the female phase, the plant heats up and emits a pungent smell of rotting flesh. The flies love this scent. After the pollinators flock to the plant, the male phase follows. This is where the plant produces pollen which then covers the flies.
After this flowering occurs, the flies leave covered with pollen, in search of their next meal. If luck is on their side, this will bring them to another Amorphophallus decus-silvae plant to then pollinate.
Since no other species of the plant blooms in the Hortus Botanicus Leiden garden, the pollen is collected for later use or sent to other botanical gardens.