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Eight of the World's Most Unusual Plants

November 29, 2007 | 96,461 views
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“Weird” is a relative term. What seems weird to one person might seem normal to another. But there are some species of plants that most people would agree are a bit unusual.

Take the Rafflesia arnoldii, for example. It develops the world‘s largest bloom, which can grow over three feet across. The plant smells like rotting flesh, and has no leaves, stems, or roots. Instead, it lives as a parasite on the Tetrastigma (grape) vine, which grows only in undisturbed rainforests.

Welwitschia mirabilis has only two leaves, which grow and grow until they resemble an alien life form. The stem gets thicker rather than higher, and the plant can grow to be twenty-four feet wide.
Dracunculus vulgaris is another rotting flesh-scented plant, which projects a slender, black appendage from its flower.

Amorphophallus (which literally means "shapeless penis") has an enormous erect spadix, from which it gets its name.

Wollemia nobilis has strange bark that looks like bubbles of chocolate, multiple trunks, and ferny-looking leaves growing in spirals. One of the truly astonishing characteristic of the Wollemia is that every plant growing in the wild has identical DNA.

Hydnora africana has a putrid-smelling blossom that attracts herds of carrion beetles.
Drakaea glyptodon has the color and smell of raw meat, and is pollinated by male wasps.

Wolffia angusta has the world‘s smallest flower; a dozen of these plants would easily fit on the head of a pin.  

Whenever I’m confronted with weird and wonderful species from the natural kingdom, whether plants or animals, I’m reminded of how truly symbiotic and complex life here on earth really is. And, just how little we actually know about this interconnected dance.  

Why do these strange plants exist? What is their purpose? No one knows, and yet, there they are – undoubtedly serving some “invisible” function that our limited human knowledge can’t decipher. 

Scientists often want to believe that things can be broken down into tiny fragments in order to be “figured out.” But just one look at the pharmaceutical industry’s complete and utter failure at figuring out a single cure using this kind of narrow-minded thinking, and you realize that nature knows better than any man ever will.


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