The World’s Weirdest Plants

Here is a list of the ten most peculiar plants and trees in the world from The Best Book of Lists Ever compiled by Geoff Tibballs.

(Image credit: Jessp)

1. The Sausage Tree of Africa (Kigelia Africana) gets its name from the long, thick fruits which hang from the tree like sausages. The fruits have a different connotation to the Ashanti people of Ghana, who call it the “hanging breast tree,” comparing it to old tribeswomen whose life of unremitting breastfeeding results in very long breasts.

(Image credit: Rod Waddington)

2. The Starfish Flower (Stapelia variegata) from Africa looks like a brown and yellow starfish nesting in the sand. It also smells like a dead animal, as a result of which flies, thinking it’s a lump of rotten meat, decide it is the perfect place to raise a family. As they lay their eggs on the surface, they inadvertently pollinate the flower at the same time.

(Image credit: Thomas Schoch)

3. Welwitschia mirabilis, from the deserts of Namibia, can live for over 2,000 years, yet its central trunk never grows more than three feet in height. instead, the energy is transmitted into its two huge leaves which never fall and continue growing throughout the plant’s life. The leaves can be as long as 20 feet.

(Image credit: Balaram Mahalder)

4. The Banyan Tree (Ficus banghalensis) of India has more than one trunk. When the tree attains a certain size, it sends down rope-like roots, which, on reaching the soil, take root and thicken to form additional trunks. So the tree can spread outward almost indefinitely. A 200-year-old specimen in the Calcutta Botanic Gardens has over 1,700 trunks, whilst during Alexander the Great’s Indian campaign, 20,000 soldiers are said to have sheltered under a single Banyan tree.

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5. The merest touch causes the Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica) to collapse in one-tenth of a second. The wilting pose deters grazing animals from eating it. Ten minutes later, when the danger has passed, the plant reverts to its upright position.

6. Puya Raimondii of Bolivia can take up to 150 years to bloom. And once it has flowered, it promptly dies. Although it is an herbaceous plant, it is built like a tree with a stem strong enough to support a human adult.

(Image credit: Henri Pidoux)

7. The Grapple Tree (Harpagophytum procumbens) of South Africa produces a fearsome fruit called the “Devil’s Claw” which has been known to kill a lion. The fruit is covered in fierce hooks, which latch  onto passing animals. In trying to shake the fruit off, the animal disperses the seeds, but at the same time, the hooks sink deeper into the creature’s flesh. If the animal touches the fruit with its mouth, the fruit will attach itself to the animal’s jaw, inflicting great pain and preventing it from eating. Antelopes are the usual victims.

8. The Sugarbush (Protea repens), the national flower of South Africa, depends on forest fires for its survival. When its seeds have been fertilized, they are encased inside tough fireproof bracts which don’t reopen until they have been scorched by fire. When the fire has passed, the seeds emerge undamaged.

(Image credit: Don Armstrong)

9. As it reaches upward, the trunk of California’s Boojum Tree (Idria columnaris) gradually reduces to long, tentacle-like protuberances. Sometimes these droop down to the ground and root so that the tree forms a complete arch. The tree has no branches but is instead covered by thorny stems.

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10. When the fruit of the South American Sandbox Tree (Hura crepitans) is ripe, it explodes with such force that the seeds can be scattered up to 15 feet from the main trunk. The explosion is so loud that it can scare the life out of unsuspecting passers-by.


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader, a fantastic book by the Bathroom Readers' Institute.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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