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11 Unusual Plants You Have Probably Never Seen in Your Life

6. Hooker’s lips, dubbed as the most kissable flower of Latin America, is famous for its lip-shaped red bracts.

Hooker's lips
Hooker’s lips. Image credits: When on earth

Palicourea elata, formerly known as Psychotria elata, is native to the South and Central American rain forests. Commonly found in Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica, the tropical plant is also lovingly called the “hooker’s lips” or “hot lips” for its unique red bracts that look like luscious lips. Despite its diminutive size, Palicourea elata is technically a tree. A fully grown tree can be up to 10 feet tall. It also has unusually thin trunks, which is why the tree often gets bent due to foliage. The leaves, on the other hand, are thick and long.

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The most notable feature of this tree is, of course, the lip-shaped bracts which form momentarily before the flowers bloom. The unique shape helps to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, which are the primary pollinators of this species. The white fragrant flowers of this plant typically blossom between December and March. The tree also produces small dark-blue- or black-colored berries. Apart from its visual appeal, Palicourea elata is also known for its medicinal properties. The leaves and the bark have long been used by the locals for treating skin rashes, ear pain, and coughs.

Palicourea elata has always been a rare plant, but the species is quickly disappearing due to deforestation, loss of habitat, and climate change. Sadly, the hooker’s lips plant is now an endangered species. (1, 2)

7. Dracula simia, also known as “monkey orchid,” looks like a monkey’s face.

Dracula simia
Dracula simia. Image credits: Orchids by Hausermann/Flickr, Dick Culbert/Flickr

Dracula simia, popularly known as “monkey-like Dracula” or “monkey orchid,” belongs to the Orchidaceae family. It is an epiphytic plant that was originally placed in the Masdevallia genus but was moved to the Dracula genus later on. The unique arrangement of the petals, column, and lip bears a striking resemblance to a monkey’s face.

When you first look at this orchid, you might even think that your mind is playing tricks on you. However, scientists have observed that various species of orchids and several succulents often take the shape and form of animals or objects found in nature.

Native to Peru and southeastern Ecuador, Dracula simia is actually a rare species of orchid. It is mostly found in the tropical cloud forests at an elevation of 2000 feet. The genus Dracula has over 110 different varieties of orchids, and each one bears flowers with monkey-face centers. When the flowers bloom, they give off a ripe-orange fragrance. (1, 2)

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8. Tacca chantrieri is a novelty plant that produces black flowers that look like bats.

Tacca chantrieri Bat Flower
Tacca chantrieri Bat Flower. Image credits: Charlie and Melody Wambeke/Flickr

Tacca chantrieri is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the Dioscoreaceae family. Native to Southeast Asia, this plant is primarily found in the tropical regions of southern China, Malaysia, and Thailand. The most unusual aspect of this plant is its flowers which are typically black and bat-shaped.

Each flower can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. The flowers, which can also be a shade of dark purple, have long (up to 28 inches) hanging filaments that look like “whiskers.” Tacca chantrieri typically blooms in spring.

The genus Tacca has around ten different species, one of which is known as “white bat plant.” Though similar to the black bat flower, the white bat plant has white bracts with purple veins.
Because of their exotic appearance, Tacca chantrieri has become a popular houseplant.

However, they require perfect conditions and care to thrive. Being understory plants, the black bat needs 60% or more shade, great air circulation, and well-drained soil. (1, 2)

9. This sinister-looking flower resembles Darth Vader from the Star Wars franchise.

Darth Vader Flower
Image credits: 2il org/Flickr

A Star Wars fan will immediately recognize this plant for its unique flowers that resemble Darth Vader! Native to the Central American humid climates, the Darth Vader flower has two deep “eye sockets” along with one pitted area in the middle. It also sports a bulbous “cap” that has curled edges. Scientists have named it Aristolochia salvador platensis, but Darth Vader sounds more appropriate.

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The plant belongs to the Aristolochia genus, and can also be found in the greenhouse of the Kyoto Botanical Garden. The seedling was brought to the garden back in 2001 from Osaka. The Darth Vader flower blooms only for a week, and it can grow up to 2 inches. The unique aesthetic of the flower also serves a fundamental purpose. The powerful aroma combined with the deep “eyes” attracts insects for pollination.

The insides of these sockets have sticky hairs with pollen. When insects fly into the flower, the pollen covers them entirely. (1, 2)

10. This South African plant looks like a baseball.

Baseball plant
Baseball plant. Image credits: Jinjian liang/Flickr

Euphorbia obesa is a succulent plant belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family. Popularly known as the “baseball plant,” Euphorbia obesa is native to the Cape Province of South Africa. It is an endemic plant, which means it is not found anywhere else. It grows primarily in subtropical climates, in stony regions, and on hillsides. You can also find dwarf bushes surrounding the plant.

The most notable feature of Euphorbia obesa is its round shape and smooth and decorative exterior. Depending on the age, the plant can grow up to 15 centimeters in diameter. The young plants tend to be spherical, but as they mature, they take a more cylindrical shape. Each plant has about eight ridges and small protruding bumps along the edges. It is typically green in color, but the horizontal ridges can be a lighter or darker shade. When exposed to direct sunlight, the plant also displays hues of purple and red.

The plant obtains nutrients and water from the ground, and it can also store water for periods of drought. The baseball plant has no thorns, but it produces rudimentary leaves which tend to have a short lifespan. Being a dioecious plant, it produces either female or male flowers which are grayish-green and cup-shaped. The fruit of the baseball plant looks like a capsule with three angles. Each fruit contains three seeds which get released when the mature fruit explodes.

The baseball plant has a slow growth, and it can take anywhere from five to eight years to produce flowers. The plant’s stem produces a milky latex that can cause skin irritation when touched. (1, 2)

11. Cosmos atrosanguineus or the “chocolate cosmos” is said to smell like chocolates.

Chocolate cosmos
Chocolate cosmos

Cosmos atrosanguineus, popularly known as the “chocolate cosmos,” belongs to the genus cosmos and Asteraceae family. Native to Mexico, the species was first introduced in 1885 when Thompson & Morgan, the British seed company, first included it in their catalog. The plant grew in popularity primarily for the striking appearance and fragrance of its flowers which are typically brownish or dark red and smell like chocolates!

It is a perennial, herbaceous plant that can grow up to 40 to 60 centimeters tall. It has a thick, tuberous root. The pinnate leaves can be seven to 15 centimeters long with each leaflet growing up to two to five centimeters. The flowers grow in clusters with a ring containing eight ray florets and disc florets at the center. The flowers have a vanilla scent, which is found in many chocolates. The fragrance becomes especially noticeable at the day’s end. (1, 2)

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