Plants are mostly seen as very uninteresting organisms. Sure, they photosynthesize and provide food for millions. Sure, they look pretty with the blooming flowers and their pleasant fragrance. But other than that, they don’t usually appeal to the imagination, do they? One would rather watch a leopard running or a eagle in flight rather than watching a boring plant, right? Wrong! There are some plants that are quite fascinating – plants that smell of rotting corpses, plants that look like huge brains, plants that bloom only once in a year…interested yet? Here are a few of such plants that will certainly pique your curiosity.
Other than producing the biggest flowering bloom in existence, the Rafflesia also emits a horrendously foul smell, which earns it the name of the ‘Corpse Flower’. This plant, which has a diameter of 3 feet, along with weighing about 11 kilos, is native to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. It also does not have any leaves, stems, or even roots – it survives on its ginormous flower. The main reason for producing the loathsome odor, is to attract insects like flies, which are its only source of pollination. It also happens to be one of the three national flowers of Indonesia. Still finding flowers boring?
The Welwitschia, which is locally called the ‘long haired thing’ (which about sums it up), looks as if it has come right out of the Jurassic Era – which, by the way, it has. This plant is believed to be about 5000 years old – which would make it the oldest living organism on planet Earth. It only has two main leaves, which continue to grow throughout the plant’s lifetime, and therefore look like multiple leaves. The Welwitschia also has a stem (which grows horizontally rather than vertically) and roots (which look like colossal roots, once dug up). Native to the Namib desert of Africa, this plant does not fail to disappoint.
More commonly known as Doll’s Eyes or White Baneberry, the Actaea is endemic to eastern North America. This plant can grow about 50 cm tall and other than its bright pink stem, is more or less like any other flowering plant for most of the year. But along comes summer, and the plant starts to resemble an alien life form. How, you ask? The berries which grow during the summer, are white in colour with a very noticeable black scar. The overall effect this gives, is of highly disquietening ‘eyes’ which seem to protrude from every pink branch. This plant would have very aptly fitted in any alien landscape, for sure.
This one is a pitcher plant. Pitcher plants are already highly interesting in nature – mainly because of its insectivorous personalities. The Attenboroughii is even more so, as it happens to be found only in the jungles on the summit of Mt Victoria in the Philippines. The pitcher itself has the capacity of upto 2 litres, though the size of the plant is not very impressive. The most interesting fact about this plant, is that scientists have recently discovered that it is capable of digesting large rats and other similar rodents – making it a carnivore, rather than an insectivore. I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of a meat-eating plant highly creepy.
What makes the Selenicereus grandiflorus unique, is that it only blooms once in a year, for a single night, thus earning it the alias ‘Queen of the Night’. It is actually a cacti species, and has quite a short life-span. The flower, which is white in colour, and is said to be highly beautiful and fragrant, starts blooming only in the late hours of the night and starts wilting before daybreak – leaving a very small window to see the flower. The pure plant is extremely rare in cultivation – most of them are hybrids or close relatives. Unique and unusual, this plant is truly the ‘Queen of the Night’.
So, have you changed your opinion about plants, yet? Well, I certainly have!