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WEIRD AND WONDERFUL PLANTS Author: Katherine Pretorius These aren't flowers you'd give to your mother. Some smell like feces or rotting corpses; some are incredibly ugly, some are deadly, and others are just strange. These six flowers include the world's most dangerous, largest, smallest, and oldest. They are Stunning examples of the incredibly unexpected wonders that nature can serve; the world's most bizarre blooms entice, amaze and disgust. Atropa belladonna - World's Deadliest Flower There's a reason that Atropa belladonna is commonly called a 'deadly nightshade'. While it may not hold the official title of deadliest flower in the world, belladonna is notable for its ability to kill and its history and unusual appearance. This plant, native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, has been used for centuries as a medicine, cosmetic, poison and hallucinogen. The foliage and the dark purple berries of this plant are highly toxic. The scientific name 'Atropa' is thought to be derived from that of the Greek goddess Atropos, one of the three fates, who was responsible for determining a man's death. 'Belladonna' is Italian for 'beautiful woman. In Ancient Rome, it was used as a murder weapon. Atropa belladonna Tacca chantrieri - Black Bat Flower Stunningly beautiful and magnificently strange, the black bat flower is one-of-a-kind. Not only does it produce black blooms, which is highly unusual in itself, but those blooms are decidedly animalistic with bat-like petal' wings' as well as long 'whiskers' that trail up to a foot long. Also known as the devil's flower, presumably because of its colour and strange appearance, the black bat flower also produces odd-shaped blooms in shades of green and purple. This tropical flower is found in Africa, Madagascar and northeast South America.
Although the Black Bat Flower does not currently hold an official listing with the IUCN, most experts consider the species endangered. While it faces other dangers, climate change represents its most significant threat due to its need for a particular habitat type. Tacca chantrieri - Black Bat Flower The Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus Titanium The titan arum not only stands taller than an adult human male but also goes by the name Amorphophallus titanum (essentially, 'giant misshapen penis'.) The flower is gorgeous, but unfortunately, it smells like the rotting carcass left in the sun for too long. This plant may very well be the weirdest flower in the world.
The titan arum, which grows in Sumatra's rainforests, is often cultivated in botanical gardens for guests to gawk and gag over. Like many other species, the flower emits the scent of rotting meat to attract pollinators.
The tallest bloom in cultivation, grown at the zoological garden Wilhelmina in Stuttgart, Germany, reached 9 feet 6 inches in height. The Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus Titanium Welwitschia mirabilis - a living fossil The Welwitschia mirabilis is thought to be a holdover from the Jurassic period. Some specimens are over 1000 years old, with the oldest living W. mirabilis believed to be nearly 2000 years old.
It may look bizarre, but the Welwitschia mirabilis is a flower found only in the Namib desert within Namibia and Angola.
Considered a living fossil, welwitschia is thought to be a holdover from the Jurassic period and is also extremely rare.
This plant may look like a messy pile of leaves, but it only has two, which continue growing throughout the plant's life, reaching lengths of up to 12 feet. These leaves become ragged and frayed over time, split by the wind and sand to resemble a larger quantity of leaves. Welwitschia mirabilis Wolffia Augusta Commonly referred to as water meal and often misidentified as duckweed, it is one of the world's smallest flowers, with each bloom weighing about as much as two grains of sand. It takes about 5,000 of these tiny flowers to fill a thimble. Woffia sometimes grows in colonies that form a dense-looking mat on sheltered waters. The only way to identify the exact species of a Wolffia flower is to view it under a microscope.
The Wolffia flower produces the world's smallest fruit, called a utricle. It has no leaves, stems or roots and floats freely in freshwater lakes and marshes. Woffia is highly nutritious, serving as food for fish and waterfowl in nature and occasionally cultivated for use as livestock feed or even human cuisine. It's eaten as a vegetable in Burma, Laos and Thailand. Wolffia Augusta