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The Ever-Blooming Obsession With the Cambodian Penis Plant

Unbeknownst to it, the endangered plant has become the topic of such intense fervor and fixation that it’s taken the world by storm

People are obsessed with penises — they’re erected on mountainsides, immortalized in penis-dedicated parks and even have their own museums. It’s an infatuation as old as time, traced back to the ancient Greeks, who celebrated phallic festivals — something that still happens today (only with more penis-shaped confectionery). And it’s not just human-made penises people are fixated by — the natural ones (think: plants, mushrooms and animals) spark just as much mass hysteria. Basically, if you look hard enough, you’ll find a penis everywhere you go. There’s even a subreddit for this phenomenon, r/mildlypenis, a whole forum dedicated to “items that have some sort of phallic nature.”

However, as three women in Cambodia recently learned, just because you find one of these phalluses, it doesn’t mean you can touch it. Earlier this month, the internet lost its collective brain when Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment asked tourists to please stop picking their endangered penis-shaped plants. Alongside four very embarrassing photos of three girls posing with the plants, the government wrote: “What they are doing is wrong and please don’t do it again in the future! Thank you for loving natural resources, but don’t harvest so it goes to waste!”

The plant in question — now, obviously, dubbed “Cambodia’s penis plant” — is called Nepenthes bokorensis, and is a carnivorous plant endemic to the Southeast Asian country. It’s got a long, thick stem that is speckled red and green, and an open tip with a hood or, you could say, helmet. From certain angles, it does, admittedly, look exactly like a human penis — in fact, the whole Nepenthes family has earned the title “penis fly trap.” Clever!

This specific story is likely enhanced by the government’s involvement (lol), but it does beg the question: Why does everyone get all delirious about dicks in the wild? This is a long, global obsession, too — nature’s penises are always in the news. Take, for example, this human-sized phallic plant (which gorgeously “reeks of decomposing flesh”) that recently bloomed in the Netherlands. Or the poor, unsuspecting “penis snake,” recently discovered in Brazil. Or psychonauts’ favorite: the renowned penis envy magic mushroom. There are even whole listicles dedicated to things in nature that look like penises.

To be fair, dicks are funny, and as Freud shrewdly observed, everyone wishes they had one (not). Maybe we’re all just jealous of Mother Nature’s plethora of schlongs, hence the reason why we can’t resist ripping them from the ground and taking selfies with them. Also, look, we’re apparently having less sex these days, so I guess people have to get their kicks somehow.

Just don’t get confused when you do eventually see a dick again — the Cambodian government probably doesn’t want you picking those, either.