MANILA, Philippines - A strange-looking, smelly plant suddenly sprouted out of nowhere in a quaint barangay in Agoo, La Union.
While the residents of Sta. Rita were celebrating their fiesta and parading their patron saint last weekend, most were suddenly drawn to a plant that grew near the road.
“I thought they were looking at a fetus… From afar, it looked like decaying meat,” a resident said of the eggplant-colored plant with a huge cone structure in the middle.
Nobody knew who planted it there, and so it became the barangay’s attraction. People from out of town suddenly emerged and took their pictures with the plant, notwithstanding the foul smell.
People likened it to the rafflesia, the world’s biggest flower, but upon looking at the pictures, an expert identified it as Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (another synonym: Amorphophallus campanulatus).
Amorphophallus means 'amorpho' (without shape or misshapen) and 'phallus' is penis.
Previous journals and consultations with the late botanist Dr. Daniel A. Lagunzad identified the flower from the Araceae family in the genus Amorphophallus.
It is also called elephant yam or pongapong in Filipino. Lagunzad had said It is known only from Luzon and Mindoro.
In his blog, botanist Abercio Rotor said, “Pongapong is a rare plant. Its reproductive stage is in the form of a single bulbous flower arising from an underground enlarged root. The flower is pollinated by flies attracted by putrefying odor of meat.”
He also called it a “wild plant.” It was once used as hog feed in Ilocos during the pre-war era, he said.