Photos of a phallic-looking plant are circulating on the web. So similar is this plant to the male sexual anatomy that the picture is captioned as a “penis flytrap.”
In fact, several people doubted the picture’s authenticity in consideration of how similar to a penis the plant looked. Many thought that someone had photoshopped the male sexual organs into the plant as a form of humor.
But some people were curious to see if the plant was actually real, and they set out to find out the truth about the plant featured in the picture. In the end, it was confirmed that the plant was very real and that it did indeed exist.
Clinton Morse, who works at the University of Connecticut, was contacted about the image. He confirmed that the image was authentic and that the plant belonged to the Nepenthes species. It was a venus flytrap alright, and the strange penis-like structure was what it uses to trap and digest insects that fall into its trap.
He went on to clarify that the pitchers in the plant shown in the image were just starting to open up, which is why it had a rather phallic-looking appearance. But Mr. Morse admitted that he had never heard it called a “penis flytrap” before, although he admitted that the description was quite accurate. Most people agree on this after seeing the plant.
But the nickname, it would seem, is quite appropriate, and not just for aesthetic reasons. The plant, it turns out, uses the strange structure to nab its prey. Insects are attracted to the nectar in the plant near to the pitcher’s opening. The opening also has wax that makes the insects lose balance and fall to the bottom of the pitcher where a fluid traps them.
The fluid is usually watery or syrupy, and it drowns the insects. The plant makes this fluid itself. Further research showed that this fluid is actually quite effective at trapping insects, especially the winged sort.
At the lower part of the plant are glands which absorb the nutrients the plant needs from the insects that fall into the trap. The upper part has wax that keeps insects from getting away. The top also has an entrance which is brightly colored to attract prey. These colors are usually light-green with light and dark-red or violet spots on them.
The peculiar plant, which can reach about 4 meters in height, is many times described as a “carnivorous climbing vine.” It makes passive pitfalls at the tips of the leaves. Additionally, the plant is often found in remote mossy forests that occur between 800 and 2000 meters above sea level. According to the University of Connecticut, the plant grows in Sumatra up to a height of 1600 meters.
The genus to which this plant belongs was first discovered in 1737 by Carl Linnaeus. The genus name Nepenthes is in reference to Homer’s Odessey in which there is a potion called “Nepenthes pharmakon.”
When Carl Linnaeus discovered the plant, he said that the plant would be Helen’s Nepenthes for all botanists, if it wasn’t known already.