What's the Most Mind-Blowing Plant in the World?

A few weeks ago, we asked the Community to tell us about the most unbelievable animals they’ve ever heard of. The kind of creatures that seem like barely belong on this planet. Lest we make the flora jealous of the fauna, now I want to hear about the most incredible and odd plants that you’ve ever heard of. Our fragile, beautiful ecosystem is full of infinitely weird and wondrous plants like the ever-evocative Venus flytrap, with its threatening jaws; the giant, rotten smelling “Corpse Flower” that only blooms once every few decades; or the Hydnellum peckii (a fungus, yes, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll accept fungi), otherwise known as the “Bleeding Tooth Fungus,” which just… yikes. Now tell us about the most insane plants you’ve ever seen or heard of!

(Image: Paul Fisk/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tell us about your favorite unbelievable plant in the comments below, how you found out about it, and any other incredible fun facts you might know about it. And if you have any great original pictures of your favorite plant, feel free to share that with us as well! Your submission might be included in an upcoming roundup article on the main Atlas Obscura site. As strange as you might think nature might be, I bet we can prove that it’s infinitely stranger.

(Also, ATTN: New York plant and music–lovers, Atlas Obscura is hosting an incredible event to celebrate the re-release of electronic music pioneer Mort Garson’s classic album, Plantasia. There’ll be listening sessions, eco-music experts, and more, all within the lush environs of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens! Get tickets now!)

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The makahiya (shy) plant or mimosa pudica folds its leaves when you touch it. I found some on my trip to Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago, although I first knew of them growing up in Asia. They’re also medicinal plants.

Here’s a picture from this website: the left shows when it is open, the right, after it closes when touched.

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Since the title specifies plants, it’s worth a mention that fungi are not plants but a separate kingdom more closely related to animals.

*also fairly easy to ID the most mind blowing fungi :crazy_face:

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This is a fair point. I think that for the purposes of this discussion, I’d still accept fungi, because they are crazy, but I’ll amend the first post and change out the image to be more accurate. Thank you for the catch!

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I’m going to take the “mind blowing” part of this question literally, haha.

I’m really fond of some of the entheogenic plants (although I’m not such a psychonaut as I once was), Salvia divinorum and Peyote especially. I guess in a choice between the two of these though , Salvia intrigues me much more both botanically/scientifically and experientially/ chemically. I would say Psilocybin is up there too , but fungi doesnt really count as a plant as its kind of more related to animals.

The whole enthnobotanical connection between these plants and their interplay with indigenous cultures in Mexico really interests me and I have a couple of pieces of Huichol folk art around my room that are peyote related.

I haven’t tried Ayahuasca vine or San Pedro cactus yet though but I will do at some point, both of those are definitely on my bucket list of future experiences.

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I love one of the other names of the plant , “The zombie plant” , a very fitting name especially considering its occurence in the Carribbean. Also, one of the Ayahuasca analogues the jurema shrub is from the Mimosa genus.

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Truly mind-blowing.

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The night blooming cereus (sometimes called “Queen of the Night”) is a strong contender. The plant is a gangly and non-descript succulent, and the blooms take weeks to develop.



They only open for one night in a spectacular fashion- then are wilted & closed by morning.

They are fragrant and exotic, and when the conditions are right create a slow-motion explosion of flowery perfume- but only for one glorious night.

By morning- all that is left are wilted petals.

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Puya alpestris, the Sapphire Tower plant bloom. It ranges from purple through bright blue to tourqoise. We had some bloom at the San Diego Botanical Garden this year. I have a plant in my garden which has not bloomed yet in 5 years…I continue to hope! Originally from Chile.

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One I recently discovered in a garden in Oaxaca is Asclepias physocarpa also known as the “Family Jewels Tree”. It has other, less savory, names. Of course, I then had to get a specimen for my own garden.

It has the added benefit of a being a monarch-friendly plant!

JoJo

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Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the titan arum, is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. The Titan Arum was discovered by Odoardo Beccari in Sumatra in 1878.
flower-Travel-gear-luggage-roadtrip-accessories-bags-backpack-adventure-airplaine-roadtrip-camping-gallant-traveler

Here is an image showing just how big this flower can be.

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I’m struggling not to crack a joke about these last two entries together… :crazy_face:

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Thank you so much for sharing these lovely pictures! I once read a novel where the Queen of the Night figured largely in the plot but I can’t remember the title of it.

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Well… flowers are reproductive organs.

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I vote to include the passion flower. One of my closest friends who tragically passed away about a year ago was obsessed with this species of plants and had a real skill for growing them in his tropical garden in the middle of the city. I always remember how peaceful our evenings were among these beautiful flowering vines on hot summer nights, our own little pocket of heaven.

The blooms last for 24 hours from what I remember him telling me and I have since learned they can be used for medicinal purposes including the treatment of insomnia, epilepsy and anxiety - possibly one reason why I felt so content stopping and smelling the flowers with him in the midst of a busy life.


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The oyamel fir tree, a relic of past cooler and wetter times. This tree’s range has retreated to the high mountains of Mexico’s transverse neovolcanic belt. The oyamel fir tree forests are beautiful, and they host basically the entire North American (east of the Rockies) overwintering population of monarch butterflies. Here’s a photo of an oyamel on a high ridge. The brown you see is not dead needles, it’s clusters of monarch butterflies!

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I absolutely love oyamel fir trees !

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The Bronx Botanical Garden has wonderful Orchid Shows but I’m always fascinated by the regular flowers there including this unbelievable color vine.

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The plant that first got my undivided attention was the Durian in SouthEast Asia. I went into a hotel in Kuantan, Malaysia, to check in and there was a sign, prominently displayed, that read “No Durian in Hotel”. I asked the clerk what a Durian was, and she could only respond “Smells like hell, tastes like Heaven” so I was still at a loss.
The next day, I was walking in an outdoor market and smelled the most awful odor (think putrefying flesh and garbage) as I passed a booth. I choked out a question about the smell and received the response “Durian! Durian!”
Needless to say, I then understood why they were not allowed in the hotel.

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I have always been fascinated by carnivorous plants which thrive in the highly acidic soils of the world’s bogs and have evolved some amazing features to catch and extract nutrients–mostly nitrogen–from insects and other small animals. My personal favorite is the sundew, which looks like it burst from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. It grows little spiky hairs from which a gooey liquid oozes. The liquid both attracts and entraps insects, which are then digested by enzymes. This beautiful tiny specimen is the round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifola) which I was excited to find in the Dersingham bog in Norfolk, England. The site is one of the few wilderness areas remaining in that area and is being carefully preserved by the Sandringham Royal Estate.

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