Special Report

35 of the Weirdest Plants on Earth

Source: 141739915@N02 / Flickr

1. Hydnora
> Scientific name: Hydnora africana
> Main habitat: Southern Africa

The hydnora looks like a refugee from a sci-fi movie, except that it is found on Earth, specifically in southern Africa. It’s a parasite that latches on to the roots of other species and grows entirely underground except for the flower. The hydnora emits a smell similar to feces that attracts beetles, which the plant traps but does not kill. It holds the beetles until the flower is mature and then releases them.

Source: Espada533 / Getty Images

2. Purple pitcher plant
> Scientific name: Sarracenia purpurea
> Main habitat: Across Canada, Alaska, the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S.

You don’t necessarily think of Canada as home to many carnivorous plants, yet there are 18 such species found in the Great White North, and the purple pitcher plant is one of them. Insects are trapped inside the plant after they slide down the plant’s slimy innards by small hairs tilted downward inside the plant. Once inside the plant, the creature drowns in water and is consumed by the plant.

Source: Maja Dumat / Flickr

3. Parachute flower
> Scientific name: Ceropegia woodii
> Main habitat: Western Australia

The parachute flower, native to southern Africa, is one of nature’s fraudsters with a weird hair-flecked tongue-like feature in its center. The flower’s smell beckons insects inside. Once there, the insects are trapped but not eaten by the plant. They are kept inside until the hairs of the plant wither away. When the insects escape, they are cloaked with the flower’s pollen.

4. Hammer orchid
> Scientific name: Drakaea glyptodon
> Main habitat: Australia

The hammer orchid, also known as the King-in-his-Carriage, is an endangered orchid species that can be found in damp, sandy soil and swampy areas in western Australia. The plant produces pheromones — chemicals that alter the behavior of a creature of the same species — that draw male wasps who may mistake the orchid for a female wasp. The male tries to grasp the plant, which gets covered with pollen. The plant grows a heart-shaped leaf that features a pattern of pale and dark green.

Source: John Dransfield / Wikimedia Commons

5. Suicide palm
> Scientific name: Tahina spectabilis
> Main habitat: Madagascar

One of the more recent plant discoveries is the suicide palm. It was found in 2005 in Madagascar by Xavier Metz, a Frenchman who manages a cashew plantation there. The tree grows to 60 feet in height, has leaves that span 16 feet, and lives for 50 years. Only 90 of the trees can be found in the wild. The plant gets its name from how it meets its demise. At the end of its life, the stem tips explode in a massive show of tiny flowers capable of being pollinated and developing into fruit. The nectar from the plant draws insects and birds. However, the colorful exposition exhausts the plant, draining its nutritional supply, and it dies.