Our planet is full of interesting and exotic plant species, with more being discovered all the time. We have plants that consume insects, flowers that reek of decaying flesh, and vines that climb the trunks of the rainforest’s tallest trees with no visible root system attached. But out of all our amazing variety of plant species, there are some that produce flowers so strange that they almost have to be seen to be believed. Here are 5 of the world’s strangest flowers.
This incredible flower has several salacious nicknames, including Hooker’s Lips and Hot Lips, and it isn’t all that difficult to put a finger on how those names came about. Hailing from the tropical rainforests of Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Colombia, scientists have determined that the flowers of Psychotria elata have evolved into this highly recognizable shape to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, two of the species’ most prominent pollinators. The “lips” of the flower only stay that way for a short while; they later spread open further to reveal a cluster of small, white flowers that produce pollen. Sadly, deforestation is wiping this species off the Earth.
If there’s ever been a time to cry “Photoshop!”, it would seem that pictures of Dracula simia would be the time. However, what you are seeing is known as the Monkey Orchid for its shocking resemblance to the face of a monkey. These unusual orchids can be found throughout Central America and the northwest Andes range, particularly prominent in the cloud forests of Ecuador. They prefer the cooler, shadowy areas of the forest — much like Dracula himself — and their lovely blooms effuse the scent of oranges.
It is an accepted truth that physical beauty fades, and in no case is that more precise than with the Selenicereus grandiflorus, otherwise known as the Queen of the Night. The gorgeous flower of this cactus species blooms only once per year (or several years), and only at night. When it is time, its petals open gradually after nightfall, and typically wilt by dawn. This species is distributed widely throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Looking more like ferocious Audrey II than a harmless flower from Earth, Amorphophallus titanum is one flower that you definitely wouldn’t want to receive on Valentine’s Day. It’s nicknamed the Corpse Flower for its putrid stench that can waft miles away, enticing pollinators like carrion-eating beetles and flesh flies, who are tricked into thinking they are headed towards rotting flesh by the scent and appearance of the flower. The chemical compounds produced by the Corpse Flower produce odors that can be likened to Limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, Chloraseptic, mothballs, and strangely, one note of sweetness provided by benzyl alcohol. This Sumatran native typically blooms only every 2-10 years.
Despite the pungent odor that led to this flower being dubbed Western Skunk Cabbage, the flowers of Lysichiton americanus are actually quite lovely, bearing a slight resemblance to calla lilies. But attempts to consume this skunky bloom, whose smell attracts pollinators like scavenging flies and beetles, can result in a painful experience stemming from the abundance of calcium oxalate crystals, a corrosive toxin that produces burning and prickly sensations in the mouth and throat and intestinal irritation. Overconsumption of Western Skunk Cabbage can lead to organ failure and death, but curiously, the roots are consumed by bears after hibernation as an efficient laxative.