Twenty unique plants guaranteed blow your mind
Science estimates that there are more than 390,900 plants in the world and we’ve chosen 20 that we think are super cool! While these definitely include some of the plants that are commonly used for landscaping, these also make up the plants that are used as medicine, food, and fuel. Plants are fundamental for our survival and well being, but some of them serve another purpose: they’re simply fun to study!
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To take a look at some of this fun flora, here are 20 of the most interesting plants in the world.
1. Baseball Plant
Scientific Name: Euphorbia obesa
Where it’s Found: South Africa
This ball-shaped succulent plant is also called sea urchin plant (given the shape of its body). It used to be only found in the Great Karoo region of South Africa. Unfortunately, it has become associated with unsustainable harvesting practices as more people around the globe have decided to grow baseball plants around them
That being said, it is now considered endangered (and nearly extinct) in its natural habitat, yet it’s commonly cultivated around the globe. Fortunately, some botanical gardens and nurseries have started to grow this plant to ensure that it no longer needs to be obtained from the wild so that it does not become extinct .
2. Corpse Flower
Scientific Name: Amorphophallus titanum
Where it’s Found: Sumatra, Indonesia
Like the baseball plant, the corpse flower is also listed as an endangered plant and there are an estimated 1,000 plants growing in the wild—a decline of more than 50% over the past 150 years.
As its name suggests, this plant is stinky—it produces a putrid stench of rotting flesh during its nightly peak bloom. This allows it to attract pollinators like flies and carrion beetles from miles away.
Not only that, but it is also the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence (cluster of many tiny flowers) in the plant kingdom. It can grow an astonishing eight feet tall and can weigh up to 170 pounds !
3. Rafflesia arnoldii
Where it’s Found: Indonesian rainforests
Let’s talk big again—this time with the largest flower in the world. This is another type of corpse flower that can reach diameters of up to 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds. It also emits a repulsive odor that smells of rotting meat to attract pollinators .
4. Dragon Arum
Scientific Name: Dracunculus vulgaris
Where it’s Found: Mediterranean region
Keep your noses plugged, because we’ve got another stinky plant to talk about. This herbaceous perennial is native to rocky slopes in the Mediterranean and, like some of the flowers in this list, it also produces a highly unpleasant fragrance from its maroon blooms .
Because of its stench, it’s also known as Voodoo Lily, Dragonwort, or Stinky Lily.
5. African Starfish Flowers
Scientific Name: Stapelia lepida
Where it’s Found: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Don’t fall for its beautiful flowers, because this is yet another plant that’s known for its foul smell—so much so that it’s known locally as carrion flower. It smells like rotting meat, and also has a coloration and hairs to actually look like a decaying animal! This works wonders for attracting pollinators, even from a great distance.
Unfortunately, this is also a threatened species that has been compromised by degraded habitats. This has been an issue for collectors looking to have the succulent at their home, as well as the Zulus, who use the plant as a remedy for hysteria
. The African Starfish might be the coolest looking one!
6. Hydnora Africana
Where it’s Found: Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Ethiopia
This is certainly one of the most bizarre looking plants in the world. And it’s also one of the most aggressive.
It has an appearance similar to fungi, that is until the flower opens. At this point, the plant transforms from a leafless brown-gray plant to something that looks more like an animal than a plant—and it certainly acts like one, too!
The parasitic perennial opens up to have warty, worm-shaped outgrowths that present beetles and other insects with a trap that they can’t escape (and serves as pollination for the flower).
While this is also a smelly plant, it is an edible fruit that is loved by many animals including jackals, baboons, porcupines, moles, birds, and even humans! Apparently, it makes for a tasty dessert when mixed with cream (and can also treat conditions like diarrhea, dysentery, and acne) .
What tips on how to grow plants like these wild and exotic ones? Check out our Complete Gardening Guide.
7. Giant Water Lily
Scientific Name: Victoria amazonica
Where it’s Found: South America
While it’s also known as Amazon Water Lily, Royal Water Lily, and Amazon Water Platter, Giant Water Lily does this plant justice given its huge floating lily pads. As the largest member of the water lily family, it has pads that span up to eight feet across.
This is all thanks to the fact that the plant grows rapidly, up to 20 cm in a day.
Unlike many of these other plants, it has pink blooms that have a beautiful sweet pineapple-like scent. It’s a little nicer, too. It has flowers that open and close, trapping beetles overnight before releasing them to complete the pollination process the next day .
8. Elephant-Foot Yam
Scientific Name: Amorphophallus giganteus
Where it’s Found: Madagascar, India, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia
Here’s yet another plant that’s earned the nickname, corpse flower. However, unlike most of these other plants, elephant foot yam is also a valuable and highly-nutritious food crop in many areas around the world. Its flower can be eaten, too!
As the name suggests, the plant is rather large and looks like an elephant’s foot .
9. Welwitschia Mirabilis
Where it’s Found: Namib Desert (Namibia and Angola)
Here are a few words commonly used to describe this plant: bizarre, unique, one-of-a-kind, and special. It truly is unlike anything else found on this planet, even though it just contains a stem base, roots, and two leaves.
The interesting thing about this plant is that on average they live around 500 to 600 years, and some of the largest specimens are estimated to be more than 2,000 years old !
10. Vegetable Sheep
Scientific Name: Raoulia rubra
Where it’s Found: New Zealand
It’s name truly says it all, this plant looks like a sheep. It’s a cushion plant that has woolly appearing leaves. This plant survives in the harsh, rocky areas of New Zealand because it has an interior that serves like a sponge to keep the plant thriving, even with very little rainfall .
11. Living Stones
Scientific Name: Lithops
Where it’s Found: Southern Africa
Usually referred to as flowering stones or living stones, these plants look just like little rocks! As a survival strategy, the resemblance to small stones allows these plants to survive the grazing periods of cows and other animals that might otherwise eat them (if they knew they were plants).
Another survival adaptation Lithops have is that they have a tremendous capacity to store water, which allows them to survive in harsh, arid areas that only receive moisture from mist and fog .
12. Kings Holly
Scientific Name: Lomatia tasmanica
Where it’s Found: Tasmania
There is one main reason this plant is very interesting: it can live up to 135,000 years. Although most of them live an average of 300 years, the plant can clone itself for a minimum of 43,600 years. This means that all the plants are genetically identical and they are one of the oldest living plant clones .
13. Venus Flytrap
Scientific Name: Dionaea muscipula
Where it’s Found: North and South Carolina
Given that its global cultivation has really taken off in recent years, this is probably one interesting plant that many of us have seen in real life. In fact, it is one of the easiest and most widely available carnivorous plants to grow.
Venus flytraps survive like other plants by getting their nutrients from gases in the air and the soil. However, to supplement these nutrients, they often consume insects. They open their mouths wide and stiff hairs protrude to act as a trigger for any unsuspecting insect that might land. As soon as the plant senses an insect, the trapped shuts and digestive fluids do their magic .
14. Shy Plant
Scientific Name: Mimosa pudica
Where it’s Found: Tropical America and Australia, and India
Also known as the touch-me-not, live and die, shame plant, and curiosity plant, this unique plant does what the name suggests: it contracts its leaves very rapidly when stimulated by touch or sound.
At the plant with a prickly pink flower head that is also used in ayurvedic medicine for its many healing properties. In fact, it shows promise as a herbal medicine that serves as an antivenom, anticonvulsant, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, and wound treating plant .
15. Spotless Watermeal
Scientific Name: Wolffia arrhiza
Where it’s Found: Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, and parts of South America.
Where some of these other plants are known for their extremely large size, spotless watermeal is unique for being known as tiny. It is a floating plant in still water bodies, like ponds. It only reaches sizes of up to 100 mm, making it the smallest vascular plant on our planet.
It serves as a food source for crustaceans, frogs, fish, dragonflies, and even humans! It is a good source of protein, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, and magnesium .
16. Tropical Pitcher Plants
Scientific Name: Nepenthes
Where it’s Found: Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia
The name says it all—this carnivorous plant looks just like a pitcher. Also known as monkey cups (because monkeys often drink their stored water), these plants have dazzling colors and decorative traps, and have to be some of the most interesting and beautiful carnivorous plants in the world.
Not only are they beautiful, but they’re also successful. They have interior glands that secrete nectar that traps unsuspecting insects. Some species have even been known to catch and consume whole rats !
17. Cape Sundew
Scientific Name: Drosera
Where it’s Found: South Africa
Most of us are attracted to shiny things, and this is a trait Cape Sundew uses to their advantage. They have strap-like leaves (tentacles) that capture glistening dewdrops which entices insects, ultimately leading to their demise. In fact, their scientific name is actually derived from the Greek word for dew.
This hardy carnivorous plant is also used by humans to treat a range of ailments—everything from warts and sunburn to tuberculosis, coughs, and syphilis .
Scientific Name: Utricularia macrorhiza
Where it’s Found: North America
There’s one slight difference about this carnivorous plant when compared to the other ones: it’s an aquatic plant. It has underwater leaf-like stems that capture tiny aquatic organisms.
Much like a venus flytrap, it has hairs at the opening of the stems that serve as a trigger, automatically causing the trap to spring open to capture organisms before closing again to digest its victims.
On the other end of the food chain, it is also consumed by several different mammals, insects, and waterfowl. In some cases, it is also used by insects as a shelter in which to lay eggs .
19. Hammer Orchid
Scientific Name: Drakaea
Where it’s Found: Australia
The hammer orchid has an interesting survival strategy. It emits pheromones to attract male wasps and has a hammer shaped portion of its labellum that looks like a female wasp. Once the male wasp tries to fly away with what they assume is their mate, the labellum moves so that the wasp either deposits or removes pollen .
20. Monkey Tail Cactus
Scientific Name: Hildewintera colademononis
Where it’s Found: Bolivia
This cactus can survive harsh climatic conditions and is typically found living in between steep rocks. But that’s not what makes it interesting.
As the name may allude to, this cactus has stems that look just like a monkey’s tail! While it may appear soft like a monkey’s tail, don’t be fooled, you don’t want to touch this .