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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.

The Plants and the Fungus Among Us ... Oh, My!

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.

When Mother Nature Starts Repeating Herself

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 8-10 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.

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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.

Senior Moment, My Patootie! Ma Nature's Just Having Fun

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?

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Nice One, Mother Nature! We Gotta Eat That Thing

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: 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.)

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

Cockscombs Look like Velvety Brains on Long Stems

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 2-5 inches (about 5-13 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

Purple Jellydisc Fungi: Ugly but Helpful

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, feature 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.

How Awkward! The Plant That Looks Like A Person

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?

Heart-Stoppers: Don't Eat the Doll's Eyes

The White Baneberry or "Doll's Eyes" is considered poisonous to humans.  Eating just 5 or 6 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 5 or 6 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 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!