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The world’s strangest plants and flowers and where to find them (photos)

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You might think you’ve stumbled on to the set of the 1986 musical horror film Little Shop of Horrors looking at these larger-than-life plants.

But these monstrous specimens actually exist.

Talkmoreblog Travel has scoured the world for some of the strangest plant species, with some boasting giant petals and others the odour of rancid cheese. Scroll down to see some of the unusual organisms that make the humble daisy or dahlia look remarkably bloomin’ dull… 

dull… 

Rafflesia arnoldii – Indonesia 

A tourist take a photo of a Rafflesia arnoldii, which produces the biggest flower in the world, in Malaysia's Gunung Gading National Park
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A tourist take a photo of a Rafflesia arnoldii, which produces the biggest flower in the world, in Malaysia’s Gunung Gading National Park

The Rafflesia arnoldii has the biggest flower in the world, with giant velvet-like, ox blood-coloured petals.

The plant, which has no visible leaves, roots, or stem, is extremely rare and can be found in the rainforests of Borneo in Malaysia and Sumatra in Indonesia.

Reddish-brown flowers emerge from large, cabbage-like buds and the plant can grow more than three feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds. When it flowers, the plant gives off a repulsive odour that smells like rotting flesh. This scent attracts insects to pollinate the plant. 

Corpse flower – Indonesia  

The Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the titan arum, is found in rainforests of western Sumatra, most commonly on steep hillsides. For those who don't fancy a plant-finding expedition, the titan arum is often cultivated in botanic gardens

The Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the titan arum, is found in rainforests of western Sumatra, most commonly on steep hillsides. For those who don’t fancy a plant-finding expedition, the titan arum is often cultivated in botanic gardens’Corpse Flower’ comes into bloomLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PreviousPlaySkipMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:57FullscreenNeed Text

Another massive flower found in Indonesia is the Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the titan arum. It can reach heights of seven to 12 feet and weigh as much as 170 pounds. 

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The flower consists of a fleshy yellow central spike, which emerges from a ruffled leaf-like cape. Like the Rafflesia, it emits a foul smell to attract pollinators, earning it the nickname the ‘corpse flower’. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew website says the smell ranges from ‘rotting meat, dung and rancid cheese to a nauseating gaseous stench’.

The corpse flower is also found in the rainforests of western Sumatra, most commonly on steep hillsides. For those who don’t fancy a plant-finding expedition, the titan arum is cultivated in botanic gardens worldwide. It is a star attraction when it blooms, as this only happens fleetingly once every five to 10 years.

Elephant foot yam – Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands

The odd-looking Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, which is also known as the elephant foot yam or whitespot giant arum

The odd-looking Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, which is also known as the elephant foot yam or whitespot giant arum

Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, also known as the elephant foot yam or whitespot giant arum, occurs through the tropics, from India to Papua New New Guinea and to Australia. Its crop – a starchy tuber – is a popular vegetable in various cuisines.

The elephant foot yam is an odd-looking plant, with a large fleshy stem protruding from a single purple ruffled leaf, which can grow up to 50cm wide. 

This is another plant that gives off an unsavoury odour to attract pollinating flies and beetles. It blooms once a year around the beginning of the rainy season. The female flowers, which only live for around five days, can reach more than 6ft high after being successfully pollinated.

Rusty bleeding tooth fungus – Europe and North America

A red fluid seeps through the pores of the gruesome-looking hydnellum peckii fungus when it is young

A red fluid seeps through the pores of the gruesome-looking hydnellum peckii fungus when it is young

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Known scientifically as hydnellum peckii, the young rusty bleeding tooth fungus gets its name from the fact that thick red fluid oozes through its pores, creating the appearance of blood. 

It is most commonly found in forested areas across Europe and North America. Although the fungus is easily identifiable when young, they become dark and difficult to spot when they age.

Another unusual feature is the fact that the fungus has fang-like spines on the underside of its cap. Despite its gruesome appearance, the mushroom is in fact edible but experts advise against eating it, as it has an extremely bitter and peppery taste.

Pelican flower – Central America and the Caribbean 

The pelican flower, known scientifically as the aristolochia grandiflora, produces enormous trumpet-shaped 'flowers', which hang from vines

The pelican flower, known scientifically as the aristolochia grandiflora, produces enormous trumpet-shaped ‘flowers’, which hang from vines

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Although the flowers look similar to a lily, they don't smell sweet - they emit the scent of rotting meat to attract bugs and insects as pollinators

Although the flowers look similar to a lily, they don’t smell sweet – they emit the scent of rotting meat to attract bugs and insects as pollinators

The pelican flower, known scientifically as the aristolochia grandiflora, produces enormous trumpet-shaped ‘flowers’ on a vine, with the inflated chamber spanning up to 20cm across and 60cm long.

Although the flowers look similar to a lily, they don’t smell sweet – they emit the scent of rotting meat to attract bugs and insects as pollinators. Luckily the stench doesn’t last too long, as the flowers only last for two days. 

The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew website says that on the first day it blooms, the pelican flower is in the ‘female phase’ and attracts flies by its foul smell. It traps the insects with downward facing hairs to ensure pollination. On the next day, the flower changes to its male phase and pollen is ‘deposited on the pollinators, the odour disappears, the hairs wither and the insects are released’. The vine is found in forested areas across Central America and the Caribbean. 

Hydnora africana – Southern Africa

Hydnora africana looks similar to slices of cantaloupe melon with three to four thick orange-coloured lobes. It is found in southern Africa

Hydnora africana looks similar to slices of cantaloupe melon with three to four thick orange-coloured lobes. It is found in southern Africa

Hydnora africana is a parasitic plant found in southern Africa. It grows underground and a fleshy flower is the only thing that surfaces.  

While the unusual flower looks similar to slices of cantaloupe melon with three to four thick orange-coloured lobes, its smell is a little less fruity. The plant emits the smell of faeces in a bid to attract pollinators including dung and carrion beetles.

The plant produces a starchy fruit, which grows underground. Infusions and concentrations of the plant are used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, kidney and bladder complaints and acne. 

Star fish cactus – South Africa

The stapelia grandiflora produces star-shaped blooms intermittently throughout the late summer and autumn

The stapelia grandiflora produces star-shaped blooms intermittently throughout the late summer and autumn

The star fish cactus, scientifically known as stapelia grandiflora, is a robust plant native to South Africa.

It produces large star-shaped flowers, which can be more than 30cm wide. The blooms, which are produced  intermittently throughout the late summer and autumn, are very hairy with a dark purple centre. 

The plant also emits a putrid smell. The bad scent and hairy surface is meant to mimic decaying animal matter in a bid to attract pollinators. 

Living stones – Africa  

Lithops are shaped like stones so they can blend in with surrounding pebbles to avoid being eaten
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Lithops are shaped like stones so they can blend in with surrounding pebbles to avoid being eaten

The lithops plant is an unusual southern African genus of succulent.

It is also nicknamed split rock or pebble plant due to its smooth stone-like appearance.

The reason for its unusual shape is so it can blend in with surrounding pebbles to avoid being eaten. They can also bury themselves underground, with this adaptation protecting them from the blazing desert heat. 

Voodoo lily – Mediterranean 

This sinister-looking flower is produced by the dracunculus vulgaris plant. It emits a foul smell to attract pollinators

This sinister-looking flower is produced by the dracunculus vulgaris plant. It emits a foul smell to attract pollinators

The dracunculus vulgaris, which is native to the east Mediterranean, has quite a sinister look about it, with a large soft spike protruding from a blackish-purple, arum-type flower. 

The eye-catching blooms, which occur in spring and summer, are foul-smelling in a bid to attract pollinators.

After flowering, the plant dies down. Due to its intimidating appearance, the plant has a number of nicknames including the dragon lily and voodoo lily.  

Banana flower – the topics  

The banana tree produces giant purple bud-shaped blooms, which are edible and used in cuisine across Southeast Asia

The banana tree produces giant purple bud-shaped blooms, which are edible and used in cuisine across Southeast Asia

If you’ve never seen a banana tree, grown in tropical areas spanning Africa to the Caribbean, then you might not know about the enormous flowers that dangle down with the fruit.

The giant purple bud-shaped blooms appear on the end of thick stems, with bunches of bananas following behind, closer to the tree trunk.

These tender flowers are edible and commonly used as an ingredient across Southeast Asia. They can be used in a number of dishes including fresh in salads or cooked in stir-fries. They are said to taste similar to artichoke leaves. 

Darth Vader plant – Brazil

Green fingered Star Wars fans might want to hunt down the  Darth Vader plant, which has helmet-shaped blooms

Green fingered Star Wars fans might want to hunt down the  Darth Vader plant, which has helmet-shaped blooms 

The aristolochia salvadorensis vine is commonly known as the Darth Vader plant due to its resemblance to the Star Wars character.

The menacing-looking plant can be found growing in humid meadows and the soggy flood plains of Brazil. 

Its odd appearance is due to adaptations that ensure survival. The flower’s helmet-like shape, purple colouration and rotting flesh aroma help to attract pollinators. The inside of the blooms, which only last for a week, are also lined with sticky hairs that keep insects there long enough for them to be covered with pollen. 

Follow us on Facebook – @talkmoreblog; Twitter –@clementbenjam14 for updates

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