Experts in Cambodia warn against people going crazy over the suggestive-looking plants for fear of destroying them.
Their titter potential is undeniable. But a jungle plant’s remarkable resemblance to male genitalia could prove to be its undoing.
A social media video of a group of young women giggling as they handle so-called “carnivorous peni_s plants” in the highlands of Cambodia has alarmed conservationists.
With their tubular shaft and bell-shaped ending, the phallic-looking plants on the slopes of Bokor Mountain were picked by the women and used as an entertaining selfie prop.
However, experts have warned that if more people follow their lead, the unusual species, called Nepenthes bokorensis, could be doomed.
“Do not pick the flowers, or they will be ruined,” said Cambodia’s environment ministry. “Please don’t do this again in future.”
The plants are a type of pitcher plant, designed to lure and catch insects inside their tubular shafts.
When insects fall inside the cavity, they drown and the plants are able to absorb their nutrients.
Their appearance might be “fun”, but picking them would endanger the species’ survival, said Francois Mey, a botanical illustrator.
“If people are interested, even in a funny way, to pose, to make selfies with the plants, it’s fine,” he told New Scientist magazine. “Just do not pick the pitchers because it weakens the plant, because the plant needs these pitchers to feed.”