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Top 20 Weirdest and Most Interesting Plants and Fungi in the World

Blake has been an online writer for over four years. He's passionate about video games, science, and entertainment.

Plants have a reputation for being motionless and boring, but many of them are neither. These 20 plants challenge the mundane stereotype that plagues their kingdom. (Okay, technically some are fungi, so I cheated a little.) Hope you enjoy!

Most Interesting Plants and Fungi

  1. Corpse Flower, Titan Arum
  2. Elephant-Foot Yam
  3. Rafflesia: Another "Corpse Flower"
  4. Venus Flytrap
  5. Tropical Pitcher Plants
  6. Cape Sundew
  7. Strangler Fig
  8. Bear's-Head Tooth Mushroom
  9. Witches' Butter
  10. Hammer Orchid
  11. Silver Torch Cactus
  12. Dragon's-Blood Tree
  13. Welwitschia
  14. Hydnora
  15. Wolffia arrhiza
  16. Lithops
  17. Victoria Amazonica
  18. Dragon Arum
  19. African Acacia
  20. Bladderwort

1. Corpse Flower, Titan Arum

Scientific name: Amorphophallus titanum

Location: Sumatra

About the Plant: The Corpse Flower smells like a rotting corpse, and it looks like it belongs in the movie Avatar. I would imagine that the smell helps prevent it from being eaten, but, despite this defense mechanism, the plant is still very rare. According to the IUCN, it’s a “threatened" species. It comes from the forests of Sumatra. It's not actually one big flower, but thousands upon thousands of little male and female flowers. These exude oils, while the center collects heat. The heat causes the oils to create the smell that attracts the beetles that pollinate the flower. In case you were wondering, a mature plant can weigh 200 pounds.

Corpse Flower, Titan Arum. Not only is it ugly, it smells like a corpse. Luckily only 28 have bloomed in the United States.

Corpse Flower, Titan Arum. Not only is it ugly, it smells like a corpse. Luckily only 28 have bloomed in the United States.

2. Elephant-Foot Yam

Scientific name: Amorphophallus paeoniifolius

Location: Southeast Asia

About the Plant: Guess who this cute little guy is related to? Yep, the Corpse Flower. Not only are they related, they also share many characteristics. For example, this guy also smells like a corpse. These elephant-foot yams vary in color, as well. Some are pure white.

The Elephant-Foot Yam might have the edge on the Corpse Flower in wackiness. This odd plant is actually edible. In one Southeast Asian culture they are grown as a delicacy, while in another they are a last-resort food source.

Amorphophallus (Elephant-Foot Yam) with flies

Amorphophallus (Elephant-Foot Yam) with flies

3. Rafflesia: Another "Corpse Flower"

Scientific name: Rafflesia arnoldii

Location: Indonesia

About the Plant: Because of its stench, the Rafflesia is another "corpse flower" (I promise this is the last plant here that smells like a corpse). It's unique in that it is the world’s largest single flower. It is also wacky because it has no stems, leaves, or roots, though it does seem to be a plant of some kind. Some think it’s related to fungi. The Kew Botanical Gardens website puts it in class Equisetopsia (related to horsetails), but Wikipedia puts it in the class Malphigiales (a large category including willows and flaxes).

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Read More From Owlcation

Do you want to find one so you can plant it in your backyard? Me too. However, these are extremely hard to find. They live most of their lives as inconspicuous strands of parasitic tissue on Tetrastigma vines in tropical rainforests, until the strands develop a little inconspicuous bud, which for a few brief days explosively transforms into the terrifying plant you see in the picture below.

Rafflesia arnoldii, the world's biggest flower

Rafflesia arnoldii, the world's biggest flower

4. Venus Flytrap

Scientific name: Dionaea muscipula

Location: North and South Carolina

About the Plant: It's carnivorous. Not many plants eat things other than sunlight (though you'll see a few in the list below). Even fewer (about four species) are capable of rapid movement. This makes the Venus Flytrap seem like it might be from another planet. Actually, it’s from boggy areas of North and South Carolina, where the soil is poor in nutrients. It craves a high-nitrogen snack once in a while.

You might wonder how the trap is triggered. Well, with trigger hairs. When two hairs are touched within 20 seconds of each other or, if a single hair is touched twice, the trap snaps shut. Healthier Venus Flytraps close quicker. Scientists are unsure about the mechanism (it has to do with neighboring cells sending chemical messages to each other).

The plant's "jaws" act like interlocking fingers or, to the insect inside, prison bars. They do their best to restrain the insect from escaping. Then digestive juices break down the insect's body.

Flies, will you ever learn?  Do NOT go near the plant with jaws!

Flies, will you ever learn? Do NOT go near the plant with jaws!

5. Tropical Pitcher Plants

Scientific name: Nepenthes species

Location: Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines

About the Plant: Monkeys have been spotted drinking from it. Rats have been spotted partially digested in it. The pitcher plant is truly terrifying. About 150 species are known, mostly from the forests of Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines.

The diet of a tropical pitcher plant includes just about anything that can fit into its pouch of sticky sap, including lizards, termites, spiders, and worms (though it seems to prefer smaller insects). The individual species have complex relationships with their ecosystems. One has evolved to host colonies of carpenter ants to clean up the leftovers from the larger carcasses, which, if left lying around in the plant, would lead to putrid conditions (we wouldn't want that). Some Nepenthes have evolved into toilet bowls for tree shrews, providing a shrew-sized perch and sweet exudate to attract shrews while they do their business. These plants get the bulk of their nitrogen from the tree-shrew dung they collect.

6. Cape Sundew

Scientific name: Drosera capensis

Location: South Africa

About the Plant: There are more carnivorous plants out there than you probably realized (more than I realized, anyway). The Cape sundew, native to South Africa, traps insects not with rapid movements or weird pitcher-shaped appendages, but by slowly wrapping its “arms” (its sticky, sap-covered leaves) around its prey. This process is slow (on the average it takes about 30 minutes) and is probably fairly cruel.

This is also the first plant on the list that is very good at reproducing. It reseeds easily and can survive a wide range of temperatures. It is on New Zealand’s list of invasive plant pests.

7. Strangler Fig

Scientific name: Ficus (several tropical and subtropical species)

Location: Australia

About the Plant: The strangler fig is the biggest mooch of the plant kingdom. Not only does it mooch, it kills. There are many different species of strangler fig, but they all are basically the same thing: that roommate who steals all of your food, the guy at a party who steals all of your beer, or that guy in class who copied your homework and got a better grade. They are usually dispersed by hitch-hiking on birds and being dropped on the canopy of trees of a dense forest. They are wacky because they will grow up and down. They grow down so that their roots can rob the living tree of all its nutrients. It grows upwards to absorb sunlight. They often outlive the host tree by years.

Strangler Fig, probably the biggest asshole plant on Earth.

Strangler Fig, probably the biggest asshole plant on Earth.

8. Bear's-Head Tooth Mushroom

Scientific name: Hericium americanum

Location: North America

About the Fungus: Well just look at it. That's a mushroom. This amazing mushroom fights cancer, stimulates nerve growth, and helps kill roundworms. How do we know? Well, some really brave soul found out it was edible.

9. Witches' Butter

Scientific name: Tremella mesenterica

Location: Tropical regions that include Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America

About the Fungus: Sticking with edible fungi that look inedible, here is Witches' Butter. It has been given other pleasant names such as yellow brain and golden jelly fungus. It also reproduces by both sexual and asexual production. If you do happen to try to eat it, you'll find that it has no flavor. Witches' butter is currently being studied because of unique biological processes that it undergoes. Some believe that they will prove to have health benefits. It grows on recently fallen and dead trees. It’s parasitic on other fungi (that's a nice niche).

It must have been a triple dog dare to make the first person eat that.

It must have been a triple dog dare to make the first person eat that.

10. Hammer Orchid

Scientific name: Drakaea glyptodon

Location: Australia

About the Plant: This endangered orchid from western Australia gets pollinated in a unique way. Does that red thing on the side look like it belongs there? And what's that black thing on top of the red thing? Well, you'll find this appendage on all of the Drakaea glyptodon that you come across.

Female thynnid wasps happen to be flightless. They also happen to climb on top of plants to signal to the male wasps, who can fly. The male picks them up and does his thing to reproduce with them during flight. The Drakaea glyptodon mimicks the female thynnid wasp's body. The male wasp tries to pick up the fake female wasp and, instead, gets pitched into a mass of pollen. To actually finish pollinating a plant and keep this orchid species going, he has to come in contact with yet another Drakea glyptodon and try to mate with it. So, he has to be fooled twice. Also, the plant smells like raw meat. It kind of looks like it, too.

Coolest and Most Beautiful Looking Plants

Species NameDescriptionLocation

Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica)

Mimosa pudica is a creeping annual or perennial flowering plant of the pea/legume family Fabaceae and Magnoliopsida taxon, often grown for its curiosity value: the compound leaves fold inward and droop.

Across Asia

Voodoo Lily

Konjac is a common name of the Asian plant Amorphophallus konjac, which has an edible corm. It is also known as konjaku, konnyaku potato, devil's tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm, or elephant yam.

Across Asia

Watermelon Radish

The Watermelon radish, also known as Rooseheart or Red Meat, is an heirloom Chinese Daikon radish. It is a member of the Brassica (mustard) family along with arugula, broccoli and turnips. Watermelon radishes are edible globular roots attached to thin stems and wavy green leaves.

Domesticated in Europe

Weeping Larch

Weeping larch (Larix decidua "Pendula") is a moderately fast-growing European larch cultivar that grows to a modest height of 10 to 12 feet, boasting long, weeping branches. Unusually for a conifer, weeping larch is deciduous, dropping its needles in the fall.

Siberia and Canada

Wild Maypop

Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as maypop, purple passionflower, true passionflower, wild apricot, and wild passion vine, is a fast-growing perennial vine with climbing or trailing stems. A member of the passionflower genus Passiflora, the maypop has large, intricate flowers with prominent styles and stamens.

Southern United States

African Starfish Flowers

Most Stapelia flowers are visibly hairy and generate the odour of rotten flesh when they bloom.

Africa

Birds of Paradise

The birds-of-paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes. The majority of species are found in eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern Australia. The family has 42 species in 15 genera.

Eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern Australia

Passiflora incarnata, Passion Vine, purple petals and purple corona filaments variety, at the Butterfly Garden at Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk, Virginia.

Passiflora incarnata, Passion Vine, purple petals and purple corona filaments variety, at the Butterfly Garden at Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk, Virginia.

11. Silver Torch Cactus

Scientific name: Cleistocactus strausii

Location: Bolivia and Argentina

About the Plant: The silver torch cactus is wooly, but that isn't unusual. It grows flowers, but that isn't too unusual either. It's the way the flowers are shaped that is unusual (yes those are flowers in the picture below). These cacti bloom horizontally. It's also a very unusual cactus in that it prefers cold temperatures. It lives in the high mountains of Bolivia and Argentina and can withstand frosts of up to minus 10 degrees celsius.

Uhem.  What are those things?

Uhem. What are those things?

12. Dragon's-Blood Tree

Scientific name: Dracaena cinnabari

Location: Africa

About the Plant: Man, I wish I had a name like that. “The dragon's-blood guy.” I can see it now...

The dragon's-blood tree is one of the coolest-looking trees ever. Its sap resembles dragons' blood. It’s a deep red, even when dried into resin. It was prized among the ancients. It can be used for stimulants, and for toothpaste, of all things. Luckily, it survived thousands of years of everyone trying to collect it, which is saying a lot since it is only found on the island of Socotra. The species is a remnant of a subtropical forest ecosystem that used to stretch across North Africa, until the desert took over there.

The canopy looks like an umbrella and acts like one. It shades the roots and reduces evaporation. The trees tend to bunch together, because the shade collects what slight dampness there is on Socotra (which gets 10 inches of rain a year) and helps seedlings grow.

Looks like it should be in a dinosaur movie

Looks like it should be in a dinosaur movie