Earth is home to over 298,000 plant species that play a crucial role in balancing nature and life. While some plants produce striking and fragrant flowers, others yield nutrient-rich fruits and medicinal properties. But some plants attract us with their peculiar or unusual appearances. The following are the 10 of the strangest plants from around the world.
Actaea pachypoda, also known as white baneberry, is a perennial plant with small, ball-shaped fruits native to North American forests. It gets its name, “doll’s eye,” from its distinctive fruits, which resemble miniature eyeballs and appear in slightly elongated clusters. The plant grows up to 60 cm tall and produces leaves one at a time in alternate patterns.
It is shade-tolerant and can grow in dappled sunlight or medium shade. When exposed to too much sunlight, the leaves may turn yellow. The thick red stems of the plant are also visually appealing. It’s important to note that the fruits of white baneberry are poisonous to humans. The plant’s flowers are tiny, only 6 mm in size, and have green, hairless stems that are usually purplish at the node.
Euphorbia obesa is a unique species found only in the Northern Cape region of South Africa. It thrives in areas with slightly sandy soil in full sun exposure or under the shade of small, low shrubs. The plant is round-shaped, like a baseball, and has no spines or leaves. It is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers grow on separate plants and typically reach a height of 20 cm.
Due to its rarity, the baseball plant is protected by national nature conservation laws. It is important to note that all euphorbias, including the baseball plant, are quite toxic and can cause severe skin problems. Moreover, euphorbias exhibit a complex floral arrangement called cyathium.
Hydnellum peckii is a unique fungus that produces a fluid that looks like blood or juice on its surface. It is known as the ‘ bleeding tooth fungus ‘ due to its whitish appearance and the bleeding from its pores while growing. The scarlet pigment in the fluid gives it a blood-like color.
Located in mountainous and forested areas in North America, Europe, Iran, and South Korea, the fungus forms a symbiotic relationship with coniferous trees as it grows amongst their roots. They produce enzymes that convert amino acids and minerals for the trees. In return, the trees provide the fungus access to a fixed source of carbon dioxide. Although edible, the blood-like fluid is extremely bitter, and the fungus has an unpleasant odor.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is a unique plant endemic to Namibia’s deserts. It has an estimated lifespan of between 500 and 1500 years and can survive in extreme weather conditions. Perhaps the most fascinating feature of Welwitschia is that it has only two leaves that grow continuously over time. This strange species has separate male and female plants.
The male flower has a sterile, modified pistil-like structure, while the female cone has exposed stigmas and produces a droplet of nectar. Cone-bearing plants are often wind-pollinated, producing massive amounts of pollen simultaneously. In their natural habitat, fungal infections may cause the loss of some seeds and small desert animals that feed on them. The continuous growth of its leaves is truly intriguing.
Lithops are popular houseplants often called “living stones” due to their resemblance to stones or pebbles. This unique appearance is due to the merging of two separate thick, pebble-like leaves at the outer edges of the plant. Lithops are primarily found in South Africa and are known for their small size and compact growth, making them ideal for indoor environments.
In their natural surroundings, lithops blend seamlessly into their surroundings and can be very difficult to spot. These unusual plants mainly grow their leaves during the stormy season and come in various colors, including white, gray, pink, and purple. Unlike other plants, their leaves appear to be brown or gray. Lithops are incredibly long-lived and can survive for more than 50 years.
Mimosa pudica, also known as the ‘sensitive plant’ or ‘shy plant’, originates from South America but can be found all over the world, especially in shady areas. This plant is known for its unique feature of folding its leaves immediately when touched, blown by wind, or exposed to heat.
The primitive nervous system within the plant balances the flow of water from beneath the leaves, which is responsible for its sensitive nature. Mimosa pudica has several medicinal properties. Its leaves, when pounded, can effectively treat swellings. In the Philippines, the leaves are soaked in coconut oil and applied to wounds and ulcers. Additionally, it has been proven to be effective in curing asthma.
The titan arum, commonly known as the corpse flower, is a rare plant species that can only be found in Sumatra and is currently endangered. This plant holds the world record for having the largest unbranched inflorescence from the main stem. The corpse flower attracts its main pollinators, such as carrion flies and beetles, by emitting a foul smell similar to that of a rotting corpse.
The spadix, a spiky green structure in the middle of the plant, contains individual flowers. The male and female flowers inside the plant mature at different times to prevent self-pollination. The spathe, which encases the spadix, has a color that resembles red meat. Corpse flowers bloom only once every 40 years and reach up to 8.2 feet.
Rafflesia arnoldii is the biggest individual flower in the world. Despite its massive size, Rafflesia arnoldii is unisexual and has both male and female reproductive systems. This unique flower is endemic to the forests of Sumatra, where it grows up to three feet in size. One interesting fact about Rafflesia arnoldii is that it emits an unpleasant and irritating smell, like the corpse flower.
The strong odor helps attract flies and other insects that assist in pollination. Rafflesia arnoldii’s existence is quite rare, partially because it is a parasite that depends on a host plant to survive. The flower does not have any leaves, stems, or roots of its own. Instead, it feeds on the nutrients and water from the host plant, usually a vine in the Tetrastigma genus.
The Venus flytrap, scientifically known as Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant that feeds on small insects and animals. These plants are common in wet areas of Eastern Carolina. The Venus flytrap has two specialized hinged lobes at the end of each leaf designed to trap prey. The inner surfaces of the lobes have hair-like projections called trichomes that cause them to shut immediately upon contact with prey.
This touch response helps the plant catch its prey. The edges of the hinged traps are arranged in an interlocking pattern to prevent prey from escaping. The plant digests the insects in just 10 days. The leaves of the Venus flytrap open widely to catch prey. It can grow in moist, acidic soil with poor nutrients.
The pitcher plant is a type of carnivorous plant that is commonly found in Southeast Asia. It features an attractive deep red color and an irresistible scent to prey, making it easier for the plant to catch insects and small animals. Some varieties of pitcher plants are even capable of consuming mice.
The plant’s specialized leaves, known as ‘pitchers,’ are shaped like funnels and contain a special fluid with digestive enzymes. The hood extends over the pitcher’s top, preventing the rainwater from diluting the fluid inside and keeping the prey trapped inside. Due to the deep cavity and special fluid, the prey cannot escape and gets easily digested by the plant.