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Things That Make You Go Eww: Plants and Fungi That Look Like Body Parts

FlourishAnyway is a psychologist who finds humor in the fascinating world of plants and animals around her.

It's a mushroom, people.  A mushroom.  Don't get all judgmental on me.

It's a mushroom, people. A mushroom. Don't get all judgmental on me.

Mother Nature: Is She Finally Going Soft in the Noggin?

One of the first signs that Mother Nature may have been going soft in the old noggin was when she started repeating herself. And I'm not talking just once.

Certain plants and fungi started taking on a striking resemblance to parts of the human anatomy. People began to whisper about her "senior moments" when they noticed that certain flowers and mushrooms actually resemble human brains, fingers and toes, eyes, and—oh, how I wish I were making this up—private parts.

Is Old Ma Nature simply bored of her job? (People say she should've retired years ago.) Has she lost her creative spark? Did she forget that she had already created something similar?

I'm choosing to believe the old broad just has a wicked sense of humor.

Whatever the case, you need to get a load of her handiwork. She's causing quite a ruckus, and we need to figure out what to do with the old card. People are starting to talk.

And the worst part is I don't think she gives a flyin' flip anymore.

Hey, what's wrong Ma?  Don't like your job anymore?  You're starting to repeat yourself.

Hey, what's wrong Ma? Don't like your job anymore? You're starting to repeat yourself.

Plants and Fungi That Look like Brains

Look at the following plants and fungi. Then look at the human brain. You'll come to the conclusion that Ma Nature just did a "copy and paste" maneuver. Take, for instance, the false morel mushroom, which comes in several varieties in Europe and 8 to 10 in North America.

False Morel Mushrooms

These fungi have wrinkled and convoluted caps with lobes, folds, flaps, and wrinkles just like brains. They come in colors that include gray, white, black, brown and reddish.1

False morels feed on tree roots and decomposing leaves, helping to replenish the forest. However, they are not exactly brain food.

Although some people do eat them, false morels have caused life-threatening illness and death. It is generally not recommended that they be eaten, as toxicity depends on cooking technique, personal sensitivity, and the specific variety of mushroom.

Ahhhh . . . Brains! Brains!

Make the zombies happy by feeding them False Morel mushrooms and cauliflower.  They  look like brains!

Make the zombies happy by feeding them False Morel mushrooms and cauliflower. They look like brains!

Simply breathing cooking vapors from these mushrooms is enough to cause health effects for some people. That is because the false morel contains a substance that is a hemolytic toxin (i.e., it destroys red blood cells); it causes damage to the liver and the central nervous system.

The active ingredient in false morels (gyromitrin) is metabolized to monomethylhydrazine, or rocket fuel, in the body. Thus it's best to leave the false morels as food for zombies—unless you want to be a zombie yourself.

Mother Nature cleverly created a vegetable that is packed with health benefits, looks like a brain, and smells like stinky farts when cooked.  Who's laughing now?

Mother Nature cleverly created a vegetable that is packed with health benefits, looks like a brain, and smells like stinky farts when cooked. Who's laughing now?

Cauliflower: Looks like a Brain, Smells like Farts When Cooked

The next time you reach for a vegetable, pick the one that looks like a brain. Cauliflower might be a creepy-looking choice, but it's also good for you.

Cauliflower is a vegetable that looks like a brain with its compact, granular head, central stalk and florets. It can be found in white, light green, and purple colors.

Raw cauliflower is firm, a bit spongy, and tastes mild. Although most people eat the florets, the leaves and stems are also edible.

If you choose to cook it, however, beware. Cooking cauliflower releases harmless sulphur compounds that smell like rotten eggs. That's "stinky fart smell" to you and me. (I suspect Mother Nature knew what she was doing with this vegetable.)

Thanks for the visual, Mother Nature, and for the smell, too.  Cauliflower looks like a brain, with its compact head, florets and central stalk.  Cruciferous vegetables emit a foul sulphur odor that smells like rotten eggs when cooked.

Thanks for the visual, Mother Nature, and for the smell, too. Cauliflower looks like a brain, with its compact head, florets and central stalk. Cruciferous vegetables emit a foul sulphur odor that smells like rotten eggs when cooked.

Cauliflower: A Healthy Choice

Don't let cauliflower's cooking odor dissuade you. The vegetable is packed with nutritional benefits.

Cauliflower supports the body's detoxification and confers anti-inflammatory benefits as

  • an excellent source of vitamins C, K, and B6, plus folate and
  • a very good source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, among other nutrients.2
Imagine having a vase full of these!  There are over 60 species of Celosias.

Imagine having a vase full of these! There are over 60 species of Celosias.

Celosia or Cockscomb: Flowers That Look like Brains

As if making brain-shaped fungi and vegetables weren't enough, Mother Nature also decided to get creative with flowers. What a show-off!

Cockscombs, or Celosias, are a highly colored species of annual flower. They have compact, velvety textured heads that measure 2 to 5 inches (about 5 to 13 cm) across and look convoluted like human brains.3 The fragrance-free flowers come in vivid colors, including reds, golds, yellows, pinks, and purples.

In the Victorian language of flowers, the cockscomb symbolized humor, silliness, and warmth.4

This fungus looks intestinal in nature.  It has a jelly-like consistency and has mild antibiotic properties, protecting trees against the bacteria that causes heart rot.

This fungus looks intestinal in nature. It has a jelly-like consistency and has mild antibiotic properties, protecting trees against the bacteria that causes heart rot.

Purple Jellydisc Is a Fungus That Looks like Intestines

Brains are one thing, intestines quite another. Old Mother Nature took a bit of a gross turn when she conjured up Ascocoryne sarcoides, commonly known as purple jellydisc.

Pink or purple in color, this fungus has a gummy texture and looks like intestines—or raw hamburger, your choice. During its development, the fungus begins by forming many cup-shaped discs that eventually converge to form a gelatinous, irregular mass.

Purple jellydisc appears throughout North America, Europe and Asia, growing in clusters among decaying stumps and logs. It can sometimes appear on live trees as well. Purple jellydisc has mild antibiotic properties which protects trees against bacteria causing tree-destroying heart rot.5

The fungus is considered inedible, in case you were wondering.

Devil's Fingers: What an Evil Looking Twist

Talk about creepy! Scary movies must have influenced the creation of Clathrus archeri, the fungus commonly known as Devil's fingers (pictured below).

Its four to seven slender fingers erupt from a partially buried ball known as a "suberumpent egg," and the fingers unfold to resemble the hand of Satan clawing his way out of the soil. The more common variety features red fingers, while a variety found in the forests of Kerala, India, features white fingers and black tips (shown).6

It doesn't help that the fungus smells like putrid flesh and attracts flies. Devil's fingers is a fungus native to Australia and Tasmania, but it has been introduced to North America, Europe, and Asia.

Fleece Flower Root or Fo-ti: Humanoid Roots

Man-made or nature-made? The fleece flower root (pictured here) is an aggressively growing Chinese herbal root. It is said to come out of the ground looking like fully formed male or female bodies—complete with all their "bits and pieces."

The fleece flower root is used in traditional Chinese medicine to restore youth and vitality as well as sexual potency.7

Disbelievers contend that the roots are not Mother Nature's handiwork at all, but rather the product of gardeners who coax the roots into humanoid shapes using plastic molds, much like other gardeners do with Buddha-shaped pears and square-shaped watermelons. What do you think?

The White Baneberry or "Doll's Eyes" is considered poisonous to humans.  Eating just five or six berries can have an immediate sedative effect on the heart, causing heart attack and even death.  Birds, however, can eat the berries without a problem.

The White Baneberry or "Doll's Eyes" is considered poisonous to humans. Eating just five or six berries can have an immediate sedative effect on the heart, causing heart attack and even death. Birds, however, can eat the berries without a problem.

Doll's Eyes: Deadly Eye Kebabs

It takes a sick sense of humor to dream this one up. The White Baneberry, commonly known as Doll's eyes, is a flowering perennial plant belonging to the buttercup family.

As its white flowers fall away, they are replaced by creepy-looking berries that resemble eyeballs—lots of them. This eye kebab plant prefers clay soil and is native to North America.

The Doll's eyes plant is weird, alright, but there's a sinister side, too. Its oblong berries contain cardiogenic toxins which quickly sedate the heart, leading to heart attack and death. Ingesting just five or six of these bad boys can cause serious damage.8

Curiously, birds are unaffected by the berries, and skilled herbalists can craft medicinal teas from the plant to treat pain and bronchial symptoms.

Slime Mold Makes Trees Look like They Are Sprouting Hair

If you suspect that a nearby tree is growing hair, think again. It's probably just chocolate slime mold. (Technically speaking, however, it's not a mold at all but rather a colony of single-celled protists.)

Found worldwide (except in Antarctica), chocolate tube slime mold grows in clusters on the forest floor and on rotting wood.9 It starts out as a single-cell organism, but when its food grows scarce, cells merge to become a multi-celled organism that can grow to the size of a pizza. The gelatinous blob then can change shape and move along surfaces, albeit very slowly.

Scientists have taken an interest in this primitive organism for two major reasons. Even though it lacks a brain, slime mold has demonstrated the ability to learn—to memorize and anticipate repeated events.10

Additionally, the mold is being investigated as a potential boon in cancer research because it slows blood flow to tumors.

Rock on, Mother Nature! Rock on!

Fenestraria or "Baby Toes"

Plants generally aren't considered "cute," but this one may be an exception, as it resembles the fat toes of babies.

Fenestraria is a perennial succulent plant that is native to the arid regions of coastal South Africa and Namibia. Its stubby little leaves peek out of the soil, typically no more than 2 inches (about 5 cm), and they feature translucent windows on their flattened or slightly rounded tips.

The Stinkhorns: Ma Nature Gone Wild?

I sure hope you didn't automatically scroll right down to this part. You didn't bypass those fascinating plants and fungi that look like brains, intestines, and fingers just to get to this low-brow stuff.

You did, didn't you?

If so, then you and the old broad are clearly cut of the same cloth. (I knew it.)

When it came to creating Stinkhorns, Ma Nature outdid herself. She found something she liked and was really good at, so she just kept repeating herself. With some specimens, the results even surprised her.

Oh yes, she knew what she was doing.  Don't let the old lady routine fool you.

Oh yes, she knew what she was doing. Don't let the old lady routine fool you.

What Are These Shocking Stinkhorn Mushrooms?

What Mother Nature has done here is only wrong if you have a dirty mind. These are mere mushrooms, people. And only that.

Stinkhorns are a broad family of fungi called Phallaceae (as in the ahem, phallus). Stinkhorns are found across the globe, and they often pop up in urban settings. They are not harmful to either humans or pets.

Stinkhorns are extremely diverse in physical appearance and include the Devil's Fingers example from above.

Although stinkhorns can vary dramatically from one another in appearance, all stinkhorns share two common characteristics:

  1. The fruiting body (the part that contains spores) arises from a partially submerged egg that may disappear when the fungus matures.
  2. At some stage of development, a portion of the fungus is covered with a foul-smelling slime. The scented slime smells like rotting flesh or dung and is designed to attract flies so that the fungus can scatter its spores.11 The scent is so potent that you'll probably smell a stinkhorn before you see it.

In traditional Chinese circles, people clean the slime off stinkhorns, dry them, and eat them. To the Chinese, stinkhorns are delicacies and aphrodisiacs.

The Butterfly Pea Is the Flower That Looks like Lady Parts

Just the name of this flower is enough to make a person blush: Clitoria ternatea. Thankfully, for those of us prone to inappropriate giggling, it is more commonly known as the Butterfly Pea. Either way, the damn thing looks like lady parts.

The Butterfly Pea is a perennial plant that was native to Asia but which has since been introduced to Africa, North America, and Australia. A hearty plant, it grows on vines up to 15 ft (about 4.6 m) in length, producing the vivid blue to white flowers for which it is known.

Its pea pods contain 6 to 10 peas each and are considered edible. In some cultures, the flowers themselves are used as a food colorant or are served up dipped, battered, and fried.

For centuries, the flower has been used in traditional medicine, particularly as an antimicrobial and anti-cancer agent. More recently, modern research has found that parts of the Butterfly Pea plant have anti-inflammatory, fever-reducing, analgesic, tranquilizing, and immunomodulatory value.12

It's a flower, people.  Just a flower.

It's a flower, people. Just a flower.

Summary

We've found plenty of examples where plants and fungi have taken on an odd resemblance to certain human body parts. Some say these are solid evidence of the old gal's senior moments.

I still think the old gal just has a wicked sense of humor. Who else could have invented these combinations? Certainly not someone going soft in the noggin.

We've seen:

  • Brain-shaped fungi whose active ingredient is metabolized to rocket fuel
  • A brain-shaped vegetable that releases a stinky fart smell when cooked
  • A fungus that looks like intestines and protects trees with its antibiotic properties
  • A mushroom that looks like the hand of Satan hatching from a half-buried egg
  • Herbal roots that resemble a fully formed human being, complete with their bits and pieces
  • Weird eyes on a stick that are so deadly that eating just a few can instantly stop your heart
  • Blobs of slime that change shape, learn, and move along surfaces
  • Mushrooms that look like male organs and smell like rotting flesh or poop
  • Edible flowers that look like lady parts

Let's keep the old card around for a few billion more years. With creations like these, she's got a lot of good stuff still left in her. Besides, with powers like these, who wants to make the old lady mad?

Sometimes she has fun with the random fruit.  She made this one look like a human backside.