Botany

A look at the Worlds most Bizarre Plants



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Bizarre plants that resemble sci-fi aliens or the cast of a low-budget horror movie might scare the petals off of your average rose bush, while definitely shivering some timbers. And they're just as frightening in broad daylight as they are under the black shroud of night. Come along – if you dare – and read about the vampires, goblins and zombies lurking within the plant world.

Corpse flower

If anyone attempted to make a perfume from this plant, it would have to be called "Eau de Roadkill." More plainly, it reeks like a rotting corpse. Approximately two to three times taller than the average man, its enormous flower is in a shade of burgundy resembling decomposing flesh. A rare plant native to Indonesia, it's pollinated by carrion-eating insects. Technically known as amorphophallus titanium or titan arum, its flower is one of the world's largest. Because of its stomach-churning stench, it's also called the carrion flower, the corpse flower or the corpse plant.

Venus flytrap

The Venus flytrap is the superstar of carnivorous plants. It garnered fame because of its effective, powerful, distinctive traps – and because it's a plant that eats flesh. Its traps consist of two hinged leaves covered in exceptionally sensitive, delicate hairs that can perceive the presence of everything from ants to, well, flies. If the hairs are triggered, the trap snaps shut on its prey – in a blaze of speed that's less than a second. Digestion follows, taking 5 to 12 days. Unfortunately, the Venus flytrap, also known as dionaea muscipula, is now an endangered species.

Rafflesia arnoldii

A parasitic, flesh-colored flower that looks like it has a bad case of acne, rafflesia arnoldii gets credit for being the world's largest blossom, sprouting to over three feet in diameter, and weighing in at a hefty 15 to 25 pounds – not exactly a lapel flower. The blossom only endures for three to seven days, lacks roots, leaves and stems and holds the dubious honor of being another plant tainted with the stench of rotten meat. The vile smell serves a purpose – it attracts carrion-eating insects that pollinate it. The flower's center is an opening that can hold an impressive seven quarts of water. Native to Malaysia, only 10 percent to 20 percent of its seedlings survive, and can take nine months to bloom.

Welwitschia mirabilis

This is a plant native to Namibia, and is equipped with a stem, roots and only two large leaves – which keep growing until they look like a creature from one of the "Alien" movies. Rather than growing upward, the stem grows outward, reaching up to 7 feet in height and 26 feet in girth. The plant can survive droughts of five years, and lives a jaw-dropping 400 to 1,500 years. Due to its longevity, welwitschia mirabilis is called the "living fossil." Tasting better than it looks, it is also called onyanga, or onion of the desert, and can either be eaten baked or raw.

Hydnora africana

This plant is not only parasitic, but a bit on the shy side. Hydnora africana lives underground in the deserts of South Africa, dining on roots of other plants. The only part of this plant that sees the light is a flower resembling the head of a fierce snake. Smelling not-so-delicately like feces, the flower lures bugs such as carrion beetles and dung beetles to what they apparently relish as a gourmet dish. The flower then closes on them and later opens and releases them, ensuring that they are covered in enough pollen to reproduce this bizarre botanical.

Rose of Jericho

Also known as selaginella lepidophylla, or the resurrection plant, the rose of Jericho can endure severe dehydration over the course of months, or even years. Native to the Chihuahuan Desert and resembling a bird's nest, it rolls itself into a tight ball during arid periods, and unfurls in response to moisture. And no, this one does not have a putrid smell.

Rat-eating pitcher plant

Also called nepenthes attenboroughii, the rat-eating pitcher plant, native to the central Philippines, is thought to be the largest carnivorous and insectivorous plant in the world. Able to digest animals as large as rats, it utilizes its lid, rim and pitcher to entice, ensnare and drown its prey. Its pitcher is open to the elements and is often entirely filled with liquid in order to accomplish a kill. Secretions of nectar are used to lure insects and small animals onto the pitcher's mouth. The waxy rim causes prey to fall into the plant. The pitcher itself is half-filled with enzymes and acids that then break down its quarry.

Of the 350,000 plant species on earth, there are roses, tulips, daisies – and then there are the intriguingly bizarre plants that thrive on little water, grow to enormous proportions, emit a stench and even eat meat. Some are whimsical, some are downright scary, and all are a testament to the wonderful diversity that's alive and flourishing on this planet.

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More about this author: Merryl Lentz

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