We often take them for granted, but the world’s plant life is a fascinating and essential component of our environment. From tropical carnivorous plants to the tallest trees in the world, when you discover the strange ways these ancient organisms have adapted you are sure to be amazed!
Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)
The world’s most famous deadly plant, the Venus Fly Trap is a now endangered carnivorous species native to the subtropical wetlands of the east coast of America, predominantly North and South Carolina. It consists of two leaves with tempting pink insides that are covered in very fine hairs which detect any movement on the surface. When an insect or arachnid touches one of the hairs on the leaves, and then touches another hair within twenty seconds, the hinges snap closed in less than a second. This two-fold system means that energy is not wasted catching something with little nutritional value. Once trapped, the unlucky prey in digested within the locked leaves, which secrete enzymes that break down the organism, after which the trap reopens. Quite the horror story if you’re a spider.
Also known as Bottle Trees, Baobab is the genus containing eight species of trees that are native to Madagascar, mainland Africa and Australia. All species grow in seasonally arid landscapes, so their trunks can hold up to 100,000 litres of water, meaning they are well adapted to their environment. As such, baobabs can live for over 500 years, with the oldest of the genus, known as Grootboom, being dated to at least 1275 years, making it one of the oldest flowering trees!
Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanium)
Named for its combination of putrid odour and deep red, textured leaf which make the plant reminiscent of rotting flesh, the Corpse Flower is endemic to the rainforests of western Sumatra. There is a good reason for this plants cunning disguise, as it is primarily pollenated by carrion-eating beetles and flesh flies. During bloom, this plant is approximately human body temperature, which intensifies the smell and further aids the illusion of a dead animal. Its inflorescence (the tall bit in the middle) can reach over 10 feet tall, making it a giant by anybody’s standards.
Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari)
This unusually shaped tree is native to the island of Socotra, and is named after its deep red resin. The leaves and fruit have many uses today, both in food preparation and for medicinal purposes, but the ancient uses are most intriguing. The legend is that each of the trees grew from the droplets of a dragon’s blood as it took one last flight after being fatally wounded, which is why they bleed today. This belief that the resin is in fact dragon’s blood still holds with some locals, who use the resin for rituals and alchemy. In Europe, the resin is still used as a varnish for violins, providing a burgundy glaze.
The largest flower in the world is one you would not want to find growing in your back garden. Weighing in at 15-25 pounds (6-11 kg) and reaching lengths of 3 feet, the Arnoldii, like the Corpse Flower, gives off a foul scent when in bloom to attract carrion insects. It is one of the three national flowers of Indonesia and is native to the primary rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. Living as a parasite on the Tetrastigma vine, this strange organism is structured more like a fungus than a plant, with no leaves, stems, roots or chlorophyll, and is only seen when it is ready to reproduce which is why sightings are rare.
Is your inner botanist’s interest piqued? Be sure to look out for these and hundreds of other weird and wonderful species on your travels with Frontier!
By Eman Bhatti - Online Journalism Intern
See more from our volunteers #Frontiervolunteer