In the world of floristry beauty is an everyday thing, but as with most things in life, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.
Flowers Across Melbourne scoured the globe to find the weirdest flowers in the world so take a seat, grab a drink and get ready to check out 40 flowers that are stranger than fiction.
#1. Monkey Face Orchid (Dracula simia)
Let’s face it (pun intended), this little guy didn’t take a whole lot of imagination to name; “Dracula” because of it’s two long, fang-like petals and “simia” for its resemblance to primates. The two dark little eyes, fuzzy dotted eyebrows, and furry little nose and beard area bear striking simian similarities that become even more apparent when viewed from a distance.
The Monkey Face Orchid is rare oddity so don’t get upset if you’ve never seen one before. It is only found in the cloud forests of Peru and southeastern Ecuador at altitudes of more than 3,000 feet. It can bloom all year round, and its flowers smell like ripe oranges, making it a prized addition to any orchid connoisseurs garden.
#2. Bat plant (Tacca integrifolia)
The White Bat Plant is one of the world’s largest and most unusual flowers. It’s strange little black flowers come in clusters of twenty to forty and resemble bats’ faces while the white bracts above resemble bats’ ears. The Bat Plant can grow to anywhere between 60 and 90 centimetres tall and comes in both a black version and a white version. The whiskers of the flower will also grow quite long, sometimes reaching all the way to the ground. An interesting fact about this weird wonder is that despite its resemblance to the lily it is actually a member of the yam family!
#3. Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis)
With more than 25,000 different kinds of orchids on the planet, it’s no wonder that more than a couple of them made our weird list. The Moth Orchid is the most common type of orchid and bears the name because of its supposed resemblance to a moth in flight. Native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and northern Australia, the Moth Orchid isn’t exactly hard to find, and it comes in nearly every colour of the rainbow. So what exactly sets it apart from its 24,999+ orchid siblings? The Moth Orchid’s uncanny ability to have multiple blooming periods— when grown in optimal conditions of course!
#4. Corpse Flower (Rafflesia keithii)
Next on our list comes a rather morbid yet beautiful flower— Rafflesia keithii, or, the Corpse Flower. There is a bit of a debate over whether or not the true corpse flower is the Rafflesia keithii or the Titan arum. If you’ve seen the movie Dennis the Menace than you may remember the flower that Mr. Wilson waited nearly 40 years to see bloom—that’s the Titan arum. The Corpse Flower of which we speak now is much rarer and can only be found in the rainforests of Indonesia. The Corpse Flower is a parasitic organism that has no visible leaves, roots or stems, causing some to argue that the Corpse Flower isn’t a flower at all—rather a fungus. In addition to its vampiric traits, the Corpse Flower is the world’s largest individual flower. Still wondering why it’s nicknamed the Corpse Flower? Let’s just say don’t breathe in its scent too deeply.
#5. Naked Man Orchid (Orchis italica)
Is it an alien? Is it a sea anemone? Nope, it’s the Naked Man Orchid! This little guy (or guys) also known as the Hanging Man Orchid, are native to the Mediterranean regions and resemble tiny little hanging naked men, from their dotted eyes and smiles right down to their you-know-whats. Naked Man Orchids come in all sizes and usually, range in colour from light purplish white to deep purply-pink. The Naked Man Orchid is classified as having a threatened status, perhaps because of its popularity as an antidiarrheal, antiflatulent and aphrodisiac. Another crazy fact about these fun flowers: they’re used in making the drink Salep, also called Turkish Delight.
#6. Hooker’s Lips (Psychotria elata)
Hooker Lips, Hot Lips, Flower Lips— call them what you will— there’s no guessing how this plant got its name. The bright red bits that resemble a hooker’s bright red lips are bracts, not petals. The leaf-like bracts are only in their kissable state for a few days before opening to reveal the little yellow and white flowers within. The Hooker’s Lips Plant is native to the tropical regions of Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama, but due to its popularity with collectors and the deforestation of its natural habitat it’s landed on the endangered list. Hope we don’t have to kiss this little beauty goodbye anytime soon!
#7. Dancing Girls (Impatiens bequaertii)
These little beauties are one of the rarest flowers around and prove quite hard to find even for the most determined plant collector. Nicknamed for their resemblance to dancing ladies in dresses, these tiny flowers are native to East Africa and come in white and light pink. The plant itself is quite petite, growing to just about one foot across and bearing blooms that max out at ½” long. Dancing Girls trail and climb, so they make lovely additions to hanging planters where you can enjoy their fabulous flowers at eye-level. Dancing Girls will root wherever they touch the soil, and they make excellent indoor plants if you can find one.
#8. Subterranean Plant (Hydnora africana)
Nope, you’re not seeing things, that’s a plant, not a monster! This South African subterranean plant is truly one of the most bizarre plants on Earth. Despite its crazy look, it’s actually semi-common in the arid regions of South Africa. The Hydnora africana also called Jackal Food by the locals, has no visible leaves, roots or chlorophyll. It is strictly a parasitic, underground plant whose flowers take nearly one year to emerge from the ground. Despite its monstrous look and disgusting scent, the Hydnora africana produces tasty berries that are just delicious when baked over an open fire. The fruit also has astringent properties and has been used for preserving fishnets, for tanning, and infused in face wash as an acne treatment.
#9. Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)
This happy little guy gets its name from its uncanny resemblance to a smiling bumblebee; that is if bumblebees could smile. Its name comes from the Greek word “Ophrys” meaning eyebrow, perhaps referring to the fuzzy bits around the edge of the flower. The Bee Orchid is widespread across Europe the Middle East and even North Africa. However, it’s becoming more and more scarce because the propagation process is so complicated. You see, the Bee Orchid requires a symbiotic relationship with a particular type of fungus to successfully grow, making transplanting tough. This orchid is more clever than it appears; the flowers are almost exclusively self-pollinating in the northern ranges, but the colouring and shape of the flower mimic the look and smell of a female bee which entices male bees towards it to mate, thus expediting the pollination process!
#10. Swaddled Babies (Anguloa uniflora)
Too cute! These tulip orchids, nicknamed Swaddled Babies, were discovered in the Colombian Andes between 1777-1788 during a ten-year expedition but weren’t named and officially classified until 1798. During certain times of the plant’s blooming stage, the flowers’ unique shapes resemble that of a baby all wrapped up in white swaddling. Their tempting scent attracts insects to the hinged lip of the petal where the unsuspecting creatures are shoved into the column, where a pack of pollen then attaches itself to their abdomens, increasing pollination.
#11. Parrot Flower (Impatiens psittacina)
If you’ve never seen a Parrot Flower before you’re not alone. The Parrot Flower, a Thailand native, is classified as endangered and therefore not allowed to leave the country. The neat thing about the flower of this rare species of balsam is that when you look at its side profile, it looks just like a parrot or cockatoo in flight! Funny thing is, when images of this flower began to circulate across the Internet they were dismissed as being “digitally manipulated” or Photoshopped because very few people had actually seen one since they are so extremely rare in the wild, and it’s illegal to remove them
#12. Snap Dragon Seed Pod (Antirrhinum majus)
If you’ve ever had any doubt as to whether or not a flower is a living creature, here’s the proof! Many gardeners and horticulturists are fond of Snapdragons for their bright colors and fragrance—not to mention if you squeeze the sides of a Snapdragon flower it looks like a dragon’s mouth opening and closing— but not so many gardeners and horticulturists know about the dragon skulls that are left once the Snapdragon has gone to seed! Interestingly enough, in ancient times, people believed Snapdragons held mystical powers, and that and that growing them in one’s garden would protect one’s home from curses and evil. These tiny, perfect little skulls are quite a reminder of the circle of life, wouldn’t you say?
#13. Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana major)
This fowl orchid is just too cute! Native to Australia, this orchid’s unique shape helps increase its pollination. Sawflies are attracted to its scent and land on the “bill”, where their weight forces them down and inside the flower, temporarily curling the “bill” down and in. From there, the only way out is through a pollen-laden section of the flower where the sawfly finds and then emerges from. You’d think such a unique looking flower would be easy to find. However, it’s reddish brownish colouring makes it blend right into the Australian bush. Want to add the Flying Duck Orchid to your home greenhouse? Sorry! This flower only grows in the wild, in Australia, and has never been propagated. Why you ask? Because in order to grow, it depends symbiotically on a particular type of vegetative fungus that only grows in Australia. It’s an excellent excuse to go on a vacation, though!
#14. Tiger face in Moon Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis)
The moon orchid is one of Indonesia’s three national flowers the flower of charm, the other two are Jasminum sambac and Rafflesia arnoldii. Usually, in nature, the stripings and markings on flowers are evolved to either mimic larger animals in order to scare away predators, or to resemble the genitals of insects in order to attract the most significant number of pollinators and propagate. In this case, the Moon Orchid’s stripes look almost exactly like that of a tiger! Makes you wonder what kind animals this lovely little flower is trying to scare off.
#15. Chamber Maids (Calceolaria uniflora)
Some call it Darwin’s Slipper, other the Happy Alien, and still more call them Chamber Maids. But no matter what name they go by, these crazy little mountain flowers are truly one of a kind. Originally discovered by Darwin between 1831 and 1836, the Chamber Maids love cold weather and can still be found in profusion in Tierra del Fuego, South America. The little white “plate” section of the flower tantalises local birds who eat it and, in doing so, gather pollen on their heads and in turn aid in the pollination of the plant. If you’re on the lookout for this plant be sure to look low; the only grow to be about 4 inches tall with blooms of just 2 inches long.
#16. Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
The Passion Flower has more than 400 different varieties and is known as the Clock Flower in India and Japan. When it was first encountered by Spanish missionaries, it was given its name because of its likeness to elements in the story of Jesus’s crucifixion which is also called “The Passion.” The Passion Flower produces an incredible scent that’s used commercially as well as a tasty fruit, which is used in flavourings for a number of different culinary dishes. Did you know that the Passion Flower is a food source for caterpillars and butterflies and is regularly grown on butterfly farms? Neat!
#17. Angel Orchid (Zygopetalum rhein)
Named for its uncanny resemblance to an angel wearing a gown, the Angel Orchid is one of the gems of the orchid world. It was first discovered in 1932 and is native to the grasslands of India. The Angel Orchid is a rather short orchid in stature, topping out at just 5 inches high, with a single heart-shaped leaf that sits flat on the ground. The flowers themselves bloom in clusters ranging from one single orchid flower to five. If “April showers bring May flowers,” it’s the June monsoons we’ve got to thank for the early blooming of Angel Orchids. They are the first kind of orchids to bloom with the onset of monsoon season.
#18. Dove Orchid Or Holy Ghost Orchid (Peristeria elata)
Native to and the national flower of Panama, the Dove or Holy Ghost Orchid produces delicately marbled white flowers that, if you look closely, look like they have a small dove with open wings perched inside. While most orchids can be found growing on or near trees, this type of orchid differentiates itself by growing on ground level, sometimes on rocks. The dove inside the flower is so intricate it looks almost like it’s been carved out of ivory. It is nicknamed the Holy Ghost Orchid because, in the Bible, the Holy Ghost took the form of a dove. This type of orchid is so highly-sought and over-picked that it is classified as endangered in its native country.
#19. Corpse Lily (Amorphophallus titanum)
This monster of a plant was made famous in the movie Dennis the Menace. It blooms so infrequently that whenever one does, it often makes local and sometimes global headlines. The Corpse Lily is technically a compound flower and only grows in Indonesia, specifically Sumatra. Its name comes from the Ancient Greek “amorphous” which means “without form, misshapen.” Not only is this flower extremely rare, it’s extremely large, some can grow up to 12 feet tall and weigh nearly 200 pounds! If you’re still curious as to where it got its name, just take a whiff of one. The flower gives off the putrid odour of a rotting body in order to attract insects for pollination.
#20. White Egret Orchid (Pecteilis radiata)
Possibly one of the most delicate, intricate of the orchids, the White Egret Orchid looks almost exactly like a White Egret in full flight. The White Egret Orchid is the most distinctive of the orchids and is extremely familiar with plant collectors and gardeners alike. A wild orchid variety, the White Egret Orchid flourishes in Asia and has also proven to successfully flourish in the United States as well. The flying bird-like flowers grow along a single spike, and a single spike can yield up to ten individual flowers and has the ability to grow up to sixteen inches tall! Quite the statement piece for any garden if you ask us
#21. Virgin Mary in Moon Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis)
This coastal-loving orchid comes almost exclusively in white and glitters as if covered in frost when the sunlight hits it. At first, it appears to be a typical Moth Orchid, but upon closer inspection it looks like a teeny carving of the Catholic Madonna has been placed inside. Something you may not know about the Phalaenopsis Orchid is that there is an actual Island named after them because they were once abundant there (not so much today) The island is called “Orchid Island” and is located in Eastern Taiwan.
#22. Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera)
We warned you that there would be quite a few orchids on this list of the world’s weirdest flowers, and here’s one more. The Fly Orchid is a relatively widespread type of European orchid that grows to be between 11 and 15 inches tall with —you guessed it!— flowers that look like little flies, with big, black, bug eyes and all. But that’s not where this orchid gets its name from. The Fly Orchid is named such because it was discovered that it attracts flies and aphids. In fact, its tuber can be dried and turned into Salep, which is said to be very nutritious. However, we take no responsibility for any ill effects caused by eating your Orchids! How does it attract flies and insects so well you ask? By secreting pheromones!
#23. Protea Pinwheel (Leucospermum catherinae)
This fun flower looks more like a carnival toy than a creation of nature. Also known as the Catherine-wheel Pincushion, this is the most exquisite of the “firework pincushion” flowers. Not many flowers can compare to a bed of blooming Protea Pinwheels. The coolest fact about this flower is that it’s interconnected with fire. In the wild, Protea Pinwheels are perfectly suited to adapt to harsh climates. The best time for Protea Pinwheels to bloom is after a fire, when the adult plants, rodents, and other insects that would impede their growth have been destroyed. Protea Pinwheels ensure their continued existence by producing little fruit that is collected and eaten by ants. The ants do not eat the seeds, which remain dormant underground until there is a fire at which time the seeds are cued to begin germination.
#24. Voodoo Lily (Dracunculus vulgaris)
Native to Europe and the Balkans, the Voodoo Lily is indeed an evil looking plant. The part that gets the most attention is its dark purple “flower”. This “flower” is not an actual flower, but a spathe, like on the Calla Lily. The purple flower only lasts about three to four days and reveals a dark seed cob after it withers and falls off. Despite its tropical appearance, the Voodoo Lily is quite hard and can survive in most climates. The most interesting fact about this foreboding plant? It can give off quite a stink, and some have even likened it to the smell of a dead possum.
#25. Lithops Weberi (Lithops comptonii)
You may have heard of a pet stone before, but a flowering stone? Nope, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, it’s Lithops Weberi, otherwise known as Living Stones. These awesome little succulents are perfect to grow indoors, especially for folks whose thumbs are not so green. These little wonders are native only to South Africa, where their evolutionary progress turned them into a drought-proof plant. When Lithops bloom, it looks extraordinary, with a white or yellow daisy poking out from what appears to be solid stone. Talk about easy to propagate! If you want to multiply your Living Stones, simply take a leaf off of one, stick it into the pebble bed and it will take root. That’s it.
#26. Brazilian Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia gigantea)
This Brazilian native vaguely resembles the Sherlock-style pipe that was popular in Holland, despite being located halfway around the globe. Also known as the Giant Pelican Plant, the flower gives off a foul odour despite its spectacular appearance. But that’s not the only thing that makes the Giant Dutchman’s Pipe less than appealing. The plant is classified as a danger to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, which confuses the Dutchman’s Pipe with its native host plant. The Dutchman’s Pipe, though similar to the host plant in appearance, does not support the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies’ eggs and will only kill the caterpillars.
#27. Star Flower (Stapelia grandiflora)
Perhaps more appropriately called the starfish flower, the Star Flower is another carrion plant (a plant that mimics the smell of dead flesh). Sought by plant collectors and gardeners because of its unique, striking appearance and large fuzzy flowers, this is a plant that is best kept outside. The colour of this plant’s flowers can range from deep reds and purples to lighter pinks, mauves, and yellow. It’s touchable, hairy, leathery flower may draw you in but it’s disgusting scent will send you running for the hills. Why? Because the Star Flower’s pollinator of choice is the fly, and what better to lure flies than the sweet, sweet smell of rotting meat!
#28. Hammer Orchid (Drakaea glyptodon)
Next up comes a rather unique orchid native to Western Australia, the Hammer Orchid, also nicknames the King-in-His-Carriage. This teeny little flower is easy to miss, but if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’ll likely never forget it. The design of the Hammer Orchid (named for its ability to reset itself) is intended on luring wasps for pollination. In fact, the flower secretes a pheromone that mimics that of the female wasp, which lures unsuspecting males to land on its dark purple labellum. Once the wasp lands, the labellum moves back towards the pocket of pollen, shoving the wasp into the pollen and successfully propagating its species.
#29. Tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes)
Tropical pitcher plants, also called Monkey Cups by those familiar with the species, can be found in many places throughout the world from Madagascar to Australia, but they’re most common in the jungles of Indonesia. These fanciful flowers look like you can walk up and take a drink right from them, but that’s the last thing you’ll want to do. In fact, the Tropical Pitcher Plants are carnivorous climbers, luring in unsuspecting insects with sweet nectar that are then trapped in the goblet-like cup and unable to escape. Tropical Pitcher Plants have been surprising people since the 1800s, but not many realise that the Pitcher Plant isn’t a flower at all—the pitchers are modified leaves!
#30. Flame lily (Gloriosa superba)
One of nature’s true exquisite beauties is the Flame Lily or Glory Lily as it is known in Hindi. This perennial plant is both a climber and scrambler and adds intrigue wherever it grows. The Flame Lily thrives in many parts of the world and is widely propagated as a prized ornamental addition to flower gardens. Like nearly all lilies, the Flame Lily is considered poisonous to humans and animals (especially cats!), so if you insist on growing it make sure to take proper precautions. A fun fact about the Flame Lily is that it’s actually considered a weed that thrives naturally in sandy coastal conditions. That’s one weed we wouldn’t mind having in our backyard.
#31. Birds of Paradise (Strelitzia)
The Birds of Paradise flower is one of the most popular and widely-recognized tropical flower in the world. It’s aptly named for its resemblance to a Bird of Paradise taking flight. The Bird of Paradise can be cultivated outdoors in tropical, warm climates, as well as indoors for those residing in colder temperatures. Despite its intricate beauty, the Bird of Paradise flower is actually quite easy to grow and care for, requiring little maintenance other than light, warmth, and water when needed. No tropical bouquet of flowers can be considered complete without this highly-recognized tropical staple. Here’s a fun fact about the Bird of Paradise you may not know: it’s actually related to the banana!
#32. Beehive Ginger (Zingiber spectabile)
When we said, we’d be showing you 40 of the world’s weirdest flowers we weren’t at all kidding. The Beehive Ginger could very well be considered one of the top 5 weirdest flowers in the world. Beehive Gingers may look like they belong to the pine cone family but they are actually related to the ginger plant. Their little “cups” or “honeycombs” (actually called bracts) will collect water and give off the fragrance of ginger. These flowers can be cultivated indoors but require lots of room and a large pot— some growing to the height of 6 feet. The flowers are tiny and white, sometimes resembling little honeybees, and they appear between the brachts. The bracts themselves turn from lovely yellow and golden colours to red. Beehive Ginger as a cut flower is highly prized because the bracts and flowers last for a very long time after being cut.
#33. Snake Gourd Flower (Trichosanthes cucumerina)
The beautiful Snake Gourd flower may look like it belongs on a festively wrapped present, but it’s actually a vegetable! The Snake Gourd originated as a wild vegetable that grew in India, but these days it is cultivated around the world. It’s a member of the pumpkin family (like all gourds) and shares similarities with the bitter melon plant, as the long vegetables, it produces taste quite sour and bitter. Despite its terrible taste, the fruit from the Snake Gourd flower is used in a variety of different medical applications, and the reddish fruit inside an overly-ripe gourd can also be used as a tomato substitute when cooking. It may be named the Snake Gourd, but we think it looks more like a spider.
#34. Spider Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Despite its strange appearance—or perhaps because of— the Spider Chrysanthemum is a favourite flower of florists and gardeners alike. Like all other mums, the Spider Chrysanthemum is well-suited for patio or container gardening. To keep your Spider Mums blooming for as long as you can, be sure to remove faded blooms and tightly closed buds (instead of the larger flowers) to encourage new flowering. Another trick to having the biggest, best blooms is to keep them out of direct sunlight while they are flowering. This will not only extend total bloom time, but it will also help the flowers last longer in general.
#35. Pleurothallis truncata
This funky flower made our list because it’s so weird it doesn’t even have a nickname! The flowers look like horizontal, orange Lily of the Valley, but they are actually a member of the orchid family. They are part of the Pleurothallis genus to be exact, also called Bonnet Orchids for their tiny blooms’ resemblance to little baby bonnets. They can grow in a variety of different ways, as brush cover, as climbers, clumped and trailing, or as tall cane-like plants. Unlike regular orchids, these orchids prefer cooler temperatures and low moisture; they grow most comfortably at very high altitudes.
#36. Devils Hand (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon)
If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, we’re not really sure what the Devil’s Hands are, but we sure love to look at them! Some call this tree the Monkey’s Hand or Monkey Paw, but we wouldn’t recommend making any wishes on it. The Devil’s Hand is native to Mexico where the Ancient Aztecs held it in extraordinarily high religious regard, who harvested the claw-like flowers for generations and generations. The fruit produced by this tree has an earthy taste and has been used for years in traditional medicine to treat heart disease and heart conditions. Unlike some tropical plants the Devil’s Hand tree is extremely hardy and can grow relatively fast, reaching upwards of 40’ to 90’ tall!
#37. Welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis)
At first glance, it looks like this little plant’s got a fungus on its flowers, but that’s actually the way it is supposed to look. Another real one-of-a-kind flower on our list, the Welwitschia Mirabilis is the only member of the Welwitschiaceae family. It could be considered the Methuselah of plants; it’s been around since the Jurassic Era and in some instances can live to a ripe old age of 1,500 years. If you’ve never seen or heard of this plant before don’t be offended, it only grows in one place on Earth: a small strip of land in the Namibia Desert between Angola and Namibia. How can a succulent plant that hasn’t changed for thousands of years continue to survive in one of the driest places in the world? It gets all of its moisture from fog and dew, that’s how.
#38. Lobster Claw (Heliconia rostrata)
Our list of weird flowers would simply not be complete without the charming, colourful Lobster Claw! Also known as the False Bird of Paradise and Wild Plantain, the Lobster Claw’s cheerful flowers emerge from clumps of leaves that look like bananas. The reddish flower-like bracts actually hide the plant’s true flowers, which require birds with specialised beaks for pollination. An excellent landscape plant, the Lobster Claw can grow up to a height of 3.5’ tall and they bloom several times each year. Be sure to provide your Lobster Claws with plenty of water and fertiliser to maximise your blooms.
#39. Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa)
This weird, wonderful flower is quite the evolutionary produce, surviving and thriving in dry, arid climates. The blood-red petals with their bulbous, purplish-black middles make these flowers look more like aliens. Perhaps that’s why the Desert Pea is one of Australia’s best-known and most recognised wildflowers. But just because it happens to be one of the most famous wildflowers in Australia doesn’t mean you can go around and start picking it; quite the opposite in fact. The Desert Pea is a protected species, and it is illegal to collect or pick any without explicit written consent of the Australian government.
#40. Silver Vase (Aechmea fasciata)
Last and certainly not least on our list of the world’s 40 weirdest flowers comes the Silver Vase, or Urn Plant. This prestigious plant is native to Brazil and has garnered the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its quality and growability. Even those with without green thumbs should be able to grow the Silver Vase plant. The Silver Vase is a slow grower with broad, waxy leaves and sharp, spiky flower heads. Once the pink flower has finished blooming, the silvery striped leaves will begin to die. However, after the flowering period is over there will be offshoots, called pups, produced towards the base of the plant that you can transplant and propagate.