In honor of Halloween, meet twelve strange and bizarre plants from around the globe below!
1. Buddha’s Hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis)
This extremely fragrant citron-variety of shrub or small tree has long thorny branches from which hang fruit segmented into finger-like sections! The rind of the fruit is commonly used in cooking for its zest. Its origin can be traced back to northeastern India and China.
2. Split Rock (Pleiospilos nelii)
The common name of this flowering succulent refers to the appearance of its leaves. Stemless, there is a deep fissure in the middle, with two or four opposite leaves surrounding it. Its resemblance of a small rock might have evolved as a defense mechanism against predators. It is native to South Africa.
3. Brain Cactus (Mammillaria elongata f. cristata)
The eery shape of this cactus generally occurs due to injury at a young age or a mutation which causes a hormonal imbalance within the plant. The normally dormant lateral buds start to grow unregulated and out of control. It is covered with harmless but prickly spines, and should be handled with care (or gloves). In its native habitat of central Mexico, it produces white or yellow flowers in the springtime.
4. Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis)
This tall, columnar species is categorized by a shaggy coat of long, white hairs. Historically, the hair has been used as a cheap alternative to cotton! As the plant ages, it beings to lose its silvery mane. It is native to Guanajuato and Hidalgo in eastern Mexico, although its mass appeal means it is now threatened in the wild.
5. Sticks On Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli)
Here at The Sill, we call the Euphorbia tirucalli by its other common name – Pencil Plant. This plant, native to Africa, produces a poisonous latex which can be converted to the equivalent of gasoline! The white, milky substance is used in traditional medicine in many cultures – yet research shows it might actually suppress the immune system… Bottomline: look but don’t touch… and don’t consume either.
6. Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes)
This carnivorous plant has dangling pouches filled with a syrupy fluid that captures and drowns prey! Another common name for it is Monkey Cups, which refers to the fact that monkeys have been observed drinking rainwater from them in their natural habitat, across the Old World tropics.
Photos via Wikipedia
7. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The carnivorous flytrap’s leaves are trigged by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces that help them know to snap shut, trapping prey! Although the speed of closing leaves vary depending on the environment and type of prey – it can generally be used as an indicator of the plant’s health. It is native to wetlands on the East Coast!
8. Dracula Orchid (Dracula sergioi)
The name Dracula means “little dragon”, which refers to the two long spurs of the sepals enclosing the orchid’s piranha-like mouth. It is a epiphytic species of orchid in the genus Dracula, and is said to smell like mushrooms! This is to help trick mushroom-pollinating fruit flies, to populate the orchids as well. Most Dracula Orchids call Antioquia, Colombia home.
9. Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora)
This herbaceous perennial plant, also known as the corpse plant, is commonly white or pale pink with black flecks. It does not contain chlorophyll – instead it generates energy through parasitism! – making it great for dark environments, like dense forest floors. It is native to temperate regions across the world, including North America.
10. Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda)
This herbaceous perennial plant and its globular white fruit with black, iris-like center are poisonous to humans! The fruit contains cardio-genic toxins which have a sedative effect on the human cardiac muscle tissue – but are harmless to birds, the plant’s primary seed dispersers. They are native to North America – although we haven’t yet seen one in the wild!
11. Black Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri)
The Tacca chantrieri is a species of flowering plant with rare, black bat-shaped flowers that can grow up to a foot across while its ‘whiskers’ can grow over two feet long! They are native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia, like Thailand, Malaysia, and the Yunnan Province of southern China. Understory plants – they prefer to lurk in the shade.
12. Devil’s Tooth (Hydnellum peckii)
This inedible fungus has a mutually beneficial relationships with its host trees – it gives out minerals and amino acids in exchange for carbon. When the fungus is moist and healthy, its fruiting bodies ‘bleed’ a bright red juice, while poor health and age make it become brown and nondescript. You can find this funky-looking fungus in places in North America, Europe, and – more recently – Iran and Korea.