Uniquely Unusual Plants

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

Every plant is unique in its own way and they all have beautiful elements to them! Dahlias, Snapdragons, Alliums, and Birds of Paradise are all unique plants, but the ones we are focusing on in this blog are rare, unique, strange, huge, smelly, tall, and just overall unusual. Here is a list of those uniquely unusual plants...

1. Titan arum or Amorphopallus titanum, which is also called a corpse flower, is part of the Arum family and is a super unique plant. This plant is a tropical herbaceous plant that is native to Asia, Africa, Australia, and the oceanic islands. This plant is known for its foul-smelling inflorescence, which is the complete flower head including all the parts of the flower head, and the flower has the largest unbranched inflorescence. The inside of this plant contains flower spikes, known as spadix, which are surrounded by a petal-like collar, known as the spathe. The spathe is a green color on the outside and encloses the spadix tightly before it opens up to reveal a purple or crimson color interior. The visible part of the spadix is a yellow-brown color and can reach about 10 feet tall. The odor attracts flies and other insects for pollination.

Titan arum corpse flower

2. Rafflesia arnoldii, which is also commonly known as corpse plant or flower, is the largest single flower in the world and can grow larger than 1 meter in diameter. This plant is found in the rainforests of SE Asia. The corpse plant is considered a parasite because it attaches to hosts, usually a type of vine, and absorbs the nutrients and water from that host. This plant is a single flower, with no leaves, stems, or ‘real roots’. The corpse flower is a red, brown color with white spots that resemble blisters, and the middle of the flower is a deep ‘hole’ or ‘well’ with vertical spikes that point upward. The sexual organs of this plant lie inside the ‘well’ and they have the notorious nickname, corpse flower, because they have a horrible smell. The flower gives off a rotting flesh smell and the smell attracts flies that help pollinate the flower.

Rafflesia arnoldii corpse flower

3. Strongylodon macrobotrys, or commonly known as Jade Vine, is a vigorous, rare, evergreen climbing plant that twines up to 40 or so feet. This plant only grows in rainforests of the Philippines. The plant is a hanging flower that grows up to 3 feet long, and the bright, luminescent color of the plant at night attracts bats that helps to pollinate the plant. The bats hang upside down and drink the nectars from the flowers while brushing their heads against the pollen which leads to pollination. This plant has glossy stems and is purple-green color when young, when older, the plant turns a brownish color with finely peeling bark and dark green leaves.

Strongylodon macrobotrys or Jade Vine

4. Pitcher plant is another, more known plant, that looks exactly like you would think: a pitcher. Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants with pitcher shaped leaves that form a ‘trap’. This plant can be found in a wide variety of environments and habitats. The pitcher shaped leaves have nectar-secreting glands that extend downward along the interior of the lip of the pitcher leaf and this attracts insects, traps them inside, and drowns them. This plant can be found in a variety of colors!

Pitcher plant

5. Bat plants or bat flowers, Tacca integrifolia, like acidic, moist soil, and are shade tolerant. This plant is commonly found in the rainforest and thrives in hot and humid environments. This plant is an evergreen perennial that is native to Southeast Asia, India, and Southern China. The blooms are unusual, and are a purple-red, brown color of umbels, clusters of flowers in which stalks of equal length spring from a center, with scapes rising 3 feet long, and there are whisker-like bracts that droop downward from the flower clusters. This plant bloom obviously resembles a bat, hence the name bat plant or flower.

Bat plants

6. Brazilian Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia gigantea, is a super unique plant that is also referred to as giant pelican flower. It is a fast growing, woody evergreen twining climbing plant that produces unusually large apetalous flowers. These flowers are a burgundy color with ivory white veins that run through the flower, and the vines grow about 15-20 feet long. This plant is native to Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil and other tropical regions. This plant gives off a potent, somewhat nauseating fragrance that attracts flies, which pollinate the plant. Flies are temporarily trapped inside the flower and dusted with pollen before escaping.

Brazilian Dutchman’s Pipe

7. Beehive ginger, Zingiber spectabile, are extremely showy and unusual tropical flowers. This plant has cone-shaped bracts, and has an interesting texture, with thick, glossy foliage. Beehive ginger thrives in warm, humid climates and are native to India and China. This plant is commonly found near ponds or stream side locations where there is ample humidity and moist soil. There are several varieties to this plant that range in colors and sizes.

Beehive ginger tropical flower

8. Devil's hand, Chiranthodendron pentadactylon, are unusual red flowers that grow on large trees. This type of tree is in the Malvaceae family, with common names of monkey hand tree or mexican hand tree. The tree is a fast growing evergreen tree that is native to Guatemala and Southern Mexico, and can grow 50 plus feet tall. The tree has large drooping shallow-lobed leaves with these unusual red flowers in late spring, early summer that resemble a red claw with five two-inch long red finger-like exerted stamens.

Devil's hand flower

9. Cannonball trees, Couroupita guianensis, is an extremely unique and unusual tree, which is a member of the Brazil nut family. This is a tropical tree that can be found cultivated at Fairchild Botanical Garden in Coral Gables, Miami and other gardens. This tree has large aromatic flowers that are arranged on long stalks that project from the trunk. The fruits are also extremely unique because they mimic the size and shape of cannon balls, but release an unpleasant smell once they hit the ground and break open. The flowers on this tree have a special kind of pollen for the bees even though they are without nectar. The pleasant fragrant from the flowers attract pollinators to the flowers, and when the cannon ball like fruits are at maturity, they fall to the ground, where they crack open, and reveal a mass of blue-green pulp containing hundreds of seeds.

Cannonball trees

10. Puya, Puya berteroniana, is native to Chile, and is a blue green color. This plant is massive, about a 7 foot tall flower stalk that is an extremely unique and rare plant. This plant is even rarer when seen in a blue-green color combined with orange. Puya is a Bromeliad, part of the Bromeliaceae family, and related to the Pineapple. This plant creates a rose-like design of silvery green leaves that are about 3 feet long. The leaves are spiny and the flower stalks are soft with silky smooth flowers. The blooms are pollinated by birds and some of the flowers have an emerald tint to them.

Puya berteroniana

11. Orchids are common plants and houseplants that are also all super unique. Some of the more unique varieties of orchids include: lady’s slippers, monkey face, naked man, flying duck, ghost orchid and tiger face in moon. These rare orchids are unusual and resemble other aspects of nature, like animals. Ghost orchids have only been seen eleven or so times since they were discovered in 1954, and are named because they are a white creamy to light pink brown color that resembles a person or a ghost. Yellow or purple lady slippers are also very rare and commonly found in Europe. The yellow purple color combination is very rare in nature, making them extremely expensive.

Orchid plants

12. Bulbophyllum medusae, commonly referred to as Medusa orchid but also has many other names, is a species of the Bulbophyllum genus. This plant is a creeping rhizome meaning they grow on tree trunks and branches. This plant is commonly found in Southeast Asia and grows in lowland forests at sea level elevations. This is a smaller size epiphyte, which is a non-parasitic plant that grows on other plants. The flowers on this plant are about 6 inches long with long lateral sepals that resemble the snakes in Medusa’s hair.

Medusa orchid

13. Flame lilies, Gloriosa superba, has many different common names, and is a tuberous tropical plant from Southern Africa and tropical Asia. This isn't a true lily, Liliaceae family, and grows naturally in a wide range of environments from forests, grasslands, and other locations with nutrient poor soils. This plant is in the Colchicaceae family, meaning all parts of the plant are poisonous, and can be fatal to humans and animals. In low doses, this plant has been used for traditional medicines. There are one to four slender stems that grow one to six feet long and come from a fleshy, red brown colored, elongated, tuberous rhizome. This spear shaped, glossy green leaves are generally produced alternately along the stem, and each leaf has strong and parallel veins coming from the tip. The flowers appear in mid-summer to fall with tepals that are often a bright red orange color with a yellowish base and edges that are wavy and curling. The flower is pollinated by butterflies and birds.