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article imageFrance: Crowds drawn to once-in-a-decade glory of 'Titan's Penis'

By Robert Myles     Jul 7, 2014 in World
Nantes - They were queuing in their hundreds, last week, in Nantes in western France as the city hosted an unusual attraction: an enormous flower known as "Titan's Penis" that blooms only once a decade.
Nantes is famous for its mechanical marvels, the Machines de l’Ile, most notably the Great Elephant. But it was the more sedate surroundings of the city’s Jardin des Plantes that saw a visitor spike to view a spike of a different sort. More than 2,000 people waited patiently to catch a glimpse of Amorphophallus Titanum after it came into bloom last Sunday week.
The Nantes specimen of "Titan's Penis" is one of only two in France and last week’s flowering was the first in the world in 2014. Previously, a specimen growing in Missouri had bloomed in October 2013.
The Latin moniker for this highly unusual specimen means “the giant strangely shaped penis," but the plant, a native of western Sumatra in Indonesia, is sometimes known as the “corpse flower” due to its pungent odour that’s been likened to the smell of rotting flesh.
Nantes’ botanical gardens, the Jardin des Plantes is but one of ten major parks and gardens in France’s sixth largest city, situated on the banks of the river Loire in western France.
The Jardin des Plantes is heir to a long botanical tradition in Nantes traceable back to the late 17th century when the Jardin des Apothicaires, or Apothecaries’ Garden was created during the reign of French King Louis XIV.
The horticultural traditions of the city really took off in the 18th century when, in 1726, King Louis XV ordered ships’ captains to bring back plants and seeds from their distant voyages to foreign lands. In those days, Nantes was one of France’s great international ports and would later gain notoriety as being one of the hubs of the Triangular Trade that would see Africans, in their thousands, transported as slaves to North America and the Caribbean.
Today, Nantes’ Jardin des Plantes is home to a number of endangered plant species from all over the world, Amorphophallus Titanum being one of those extinction threatened species. Nowadays, in its natural habitat in western Sumatra, the ‘corpse flower’ is rarely seen in the wild as intensive logging slices away at an ever-increasing proportion of Sumatra’s old-growth forests.
Close-up of Titan s Penis flower  also known as the corpse flower due to its malodorous scent  in bl...
Close-up of Titan's Penis flower, also known as the corpse flower due to its malodorous scent, in bloom at Jardin des Plantes in Nantes, France. The plant blooms only once in a decade
Ville de Nantes
In the wild, specimens of the phallus-shaped flower have been known to grow up to three meters (about 10 feet) in height, making it one of the world’s largest. But the specimen in Nantes is less well-endowed, measuring a more modest 1.6 metres (about 5 feet 3 inches).
But what matters size when the Nantes specimen has just as much staying power as its cousins in the wild. Amorphophallus Titanum, whether in gardens or growing wild, takes a full decade to muster up enough energy to come into flower — and then it blooms for just 72 hours.
Quite a wait for just three mornings of glory!
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