Image of the Stapelia Gigantrea, a large white star shaped flower

Exploring nature’s freakiest flora

From plants smelling of rotting flesh to those with pale ghostly stems or berries resembling eyeballs, nature is brimming with creepy-looking forms of flora to behold.

Plant life comes is various forms, some which we find aesthetically pleasing and some which we don’t. For example, who wouldn’t want the smell of sweet nectar from flowers such as jasmine to fill the room? But a plant which stinks of something resembling a rotting carcass? Don’t expect too many people to adopt such a houseplant in a hurry.

Freaky flora

One of the foulest of plants in nature is Stapelia gigantea, the carrion plant or toad flower. This flower grows in dry, arid parts of the world, with a smell resembling decomposing animal flesh. It has evolved to produce such a stink to attract flies and other insects as a way of helping itself pollinate. Flowers can’t all be smelling of roses, can they?

Atropa belladonna, otherwise known as deadly nightshade, belongs to the broader nightshade grouping of plants, and might look innocent on the outside. However, this plant, which is native to Europe as well as parts of Africa and Asia, hides a toxic secret. The leaves, the roots and berries of deadly nightshade contain toxins which cause a variety of symptoms related to impaired brain function. Deadly nightshade is especially a plant to beware of, as it produces seemingly dark, juicy, sweet-looking berries.

One plant to literally keep your eye on is Actaea pachypoda, also known as white baneberry or doll’s eye. This plant produces a series of stalks which blossom with distinctive white berries inlaid with a black seed, meaning they resemble an array of eyeballs, like some monstrous creature from your worst nightmares. Toxic to humans, these berries can be ingested by birds without them suffering ill effects, allowing the seeds to be transported elsewhere, so they can continue to take root.

Paranormal plants

If the previous entries haven’t given you the heebie-jeebies, Cuscuta epithymum might do just that. Otherwise known as strangle-tare or the aptly-named hellweed, this parasitic plant is bright red, not even using photosynthesis to grow. Instead, strangle-tare latches onto other plants to survive, growing in yarn-like tangles resembling blood-red spider webs once it grows out of control.

For a prickly experience, the brain cactus should send shivers down your spine. This succulent, native to Mexico, grows in wavy patterns often resembling the appearance of a human brain. Its spiky skin repels any animal from even touching it, and on the off-chance that it is eaten, its flesh contains caustic sap which would burn the throat as it is ingested. Yikes!

One last plant to leave you well and truly spooked is Monotropa uniflora, or ghost plant. Like strangle-tare, ghost plant cells don’t contain chlorophyll for photosynthesis. This gives ghost plants a pale, ghostly appearance, growing as a small group of stems with drooping flowers. Native to parts of Asia and the Americas, ghost plants are parasitic, making it hard for them to be grown in artificial conditions. The waxy flowers are pollinated by insects such as bees, and beholding such a plant is likely to leave you feeling a whiter shade of pale for sure.

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