Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Eight of the World's Most Unusual Plants
Weird is relative. What seems weird to me might not seem weird to you. In the plant kingdom, however, there are definitely some species that most people would acknowledge are highly unusual. In the wack spirit of Halloween, some of my findings follow.
1. Rafflesia arnoldii: this parasitic plant develops the world's largest bloom that can grow over three feet across. The flower is a fleshy color, with spots that make it look like a teenager's acne-ridden skin. It smells bad and has a hole in the center that holds six or seven quarts of water. The plant has no leaves, stems, or roots.
. Hydnora africana, an unusual flesh-colored, parasitic flower that attacks the nearby roots of shrubby in arid deserts of South Africa. The putrid-smelling blossom attracts herds of carrion beetles.
3. Dracunculus vulgaris: smells like rotting flesh, and has a burgundy-colored, leaf-like flower that projects a slender, black appendage.
4. Amorphophallus: means, literally, "shapeless penis." The name comes from the shape of the erect black spadix.
5. Wollemia nobilis: This bizarre-looking tree was known only from 120 million-year-old fossil leaves before 1994; fewer than one hundred exist in the wild. They have strange bark that looks like bubbles of chocolate, multiple trunks, and ferny-looking leaves growing in spirals. They can grow up to 125 feet tall.
6. Welwitschia mirabilis consists of only two leaves and a stem with roots. Its two leaves continue to grow until they resemble an alien life form. The stem gets thicker rather than higher, although this plant can grow to be almost six feet high and twenty-four feet wide. Its estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years. Mirabilis grows in Namibia, and is thought to be a relic of the Jurassic period.
7. Drakaea glyptodon: an orchid. It is the color of, and smells like, raw meat. Pollinated by male wasps.
8. Wolffia angusta: the world's smallest flower. A dozen plants would easily fit on the head of a pin and two plants in full bloom will fit inside a small printed letter "o."