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Rare blossoming of ‘huge penis flower’ draws crowds to French garden

Thousands turned out to see the world’s tallest flower, which gives off a stench similar to rotten meat

The giant penis flower is on display at a botanical garden in Nancy. But hurry, it begins withering within 48 hours Pic: Jardins botaniques du Grand Nancy et de l'Université de Lorraine

Crowds descended on a botanical garden in eastern France to witness something that happens once every 10 years: the blossoming of a ‘giant penis’ flower.

Long queues developed at Jardin Botanique Jean-Marie Pelt in Nancy to witness the rare occurrence.

The flowering, which saw the garden’s Amorphophallus titanum grow to be 1.97m tall, began on Tuesday (July 11).

Some had driven 100 kilometres to see it, Frédéric Pautz, the garden’s director, told The Connexion.

“There is a real enthusiasm,” said Mr Pautz. “The blossoming feels like an acknowledgment of our work in the garden.” 

His mention of “an acknowledgement” refers to the botanical garden being engaged for 30 years in safeguarding araceous flowers such as the ‘giant penis plant’, which suffers from the consequences of deforestation, particularly in the Sumatra region where it is most common. 

“The flower is a standard-bearer for us,” said Mr Pautz, adding that only 4,000 of them exist in the world. 

He said the garden had 6,000 visitors on Tuesday and expects the same amount today (July 12). 

Rotten meat

It is the fifth time France has exhibited an Amorphophallus titanum, the world’s tallest, and some say smelliest, flower

There were previous showcases in Brest in 2009, Nantes in 2014, Bordeaux in 2016 and Paris. 

Such a flower is extremely rare considering it is very hard to grow and maintain. The bulb is extremely sensitive: it rots if you water it too much but shrinks if it does not receive enough fertiliser. 

The botanical garden in Nancy kept one greenhouse at 27C specifically for the flower. It took six years to grow it. 

If you plan to see the flower before it starts to wither in the next two days, be aware it comes with a very pungent smell. 

Because the flower is pollinated by beetles, said Mr Pautz, it gives off a smell of rotten meat or flesh.
The female flower blossomed on Tuesday but a second one, male, is expected on Wednesday evening. 

“It is going to stink pretty heavily again tonight,” said Mr Pautz with a laugh.

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