8 plants you need to see in person to believe

Posted by Elise Kirsten on 12 April 2019

1. Dragon blood tree

Dracanae cinnabari

Dragon blood tree – Socotra Island, Yemen. Image credit: Rod Waddington/ Flickr

This tree, found in Yemen and native to the Socotra archipelago, gets its intriguing name from the colour of its sap – red, of course. The dragon blood is an evergreen tree which grows to about 9m in height. Each branch of the tree continuously divides itself into two, which is known as dichotomous branching.

2. Devil’s betelnut box

Rafflesia arnoldii

A Rafflesia Arnoldii and its buds, taken at foothill of Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Image credit: Creative Commons

This unusual-looking flower is one of Indonesia’s three national flowers and is found in Sumatra and Borneo. It has the nickname Kerubut, meaning ‘Devil’s betelnut box’ and it emits a smell of rotting flesh to attract insects to pollinate it.

3. Bear’s-head tooth mushroom

Hericium americanum

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Technically, fungi aren’t plants, but this bizarre-looking mushroom is definitely intriguing. The bear’s-head tooth mushroom is found in North America, usually grows on dead hardwood trees and is white when young and yellows with age. It’s edible when it is still white and has a nutty taste.

4. Jackal food

Hydnora Africana

Jackal food flower. Image credit: Flickr

The jackal food plant grows underground with only its flower (which is brown on the outside and bright salmon or orange on the inside) above the surface. This parasitic plant has no chlorophyll and takes what it needs from its host. According to Sanbi.org it is found in ‘dry and semi-arid parts of the Succulent Karoo, Little Karoo, Eastern Cape Karoo, and the dry coastal thickets between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal’. The plant can also be found in other parts of Africa, such as Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana and as far north as Ethiopia.

5. Tropical pitcher plant

Nepenthes species

Image credit:

This tropical pitcher plant is found predominantly in Borneo, Sumatra and the Philippines. It uses its pouch as a trap to catch small creatures that gets caught inside by its sticky sap. This can include spiders, worms, ants and lizards. Some species of these pitcher plants have developed a symbiotic relationship with tree shrews. The pitcher acts as a toilet for the shrew, giving the plant nitrogen from the dung, while the shrew eats the plants’ exudate.

6. Corpse flower

Amorphophallus Titanium

Image credit: Pixaby and Wikipedia

The corpse flower is the largest individual flower on Earth, and one of the most rare. It only flowers once every 30 to 40 years, causing great excitement when it does. The large, smelly plant – it’s one of a group of plants that emit a foul stench of carrion to draw insects to help pollinate it – is only found naturally in western Sumatra and western Java, Indonesia. It can also be found in a number of greenhouses and botanical gardens throughout the world, for instance at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, Australia.

7. African starfish flower

Stapelia grandiflora

Image credit: Flickr

Known globally as starfish flowers and locally as carrion flowers, this species of succulent found in South Africa is characterised by its starfish-shaped, foul-smelling flowers. The flowers give off a strong scent of rotting meat to attract flies as pollinators, however, according to Sanbi.org, ‘species such as S. erectiflora and S. flavopurpurea have sweetly-scented flowers, but they are rare.’

8. Living stone plants

Lithops schwantesii

Stone plant. Image credit: Pixaby

Living stone plans are tiny caespitose succulents found in Namibia and South Africa’s Northern Cape which as the name suggests, look like stones. The plant grows almost entirely under the soil, with only the upper truncated part of the leaves visible. They often grow in twos or threes, but up to 15 can be clustered together in a group and the plant produces pretty, vygie-like flowers (also known as ice plants).

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