June 10, 2011

13 Of The World’s Most Bizarre Plants And Fungi

Rafflesias Flower
What is 4 feet across, smells like a dead body, and is a parasite that feeds by growing parts of itself inside another living thing? “Flower” probably wasn’t the first thing you would normally think of, but the Rafflesias flower from Malaysia is exactly that. The only part of the plant that isn’t burrowing through vines to steal their nutrients is the flower itself, which smells like rotting meat to attract carrion beetles, which spread their pollen. It’s kind of like a normal bee/flower relationship, except in this case the bees are beetles who think the flower is a corpse.

Titan Arum
This big wiener-shaped monstrosity is the Titan Arum, also colloquially known as the “Corpse flower” (botanists aren’t the world’s most creative people). Can you guess why? Yes, it also smells like a dead body. Go nature! You can’t make a giant flower that smells like, maybe, a rose? Or do bugs that like dead things pollinate better?

The blooms can reach 9 feet in height making Titans the largest flowers in the world. Unlike the last entry, they aren’t parasites, so they are slightly less frightening than the Rafflesia since they’re just a big stinky flower. It should also be noted that Amorphophallus titanum, is Latin for “Giant misshapen pe*?s”, and the popular name of Titan Arum was coined by David Attenborough, because he thought saying “Amorphophallus” on TV was inappropriate.

 Elephant foot yam
The elephant foot yam is a relative of the stinky phallus up there. And joy of joys, this one is edible! Seriously, the root of this is apparently a yam and is eaten in several countries as a delicacy. It looks like an ugly mushroom, but with any luck, doesn’t smell like death. Since it bears resemblance to its big brother, Titan Arum, it also understandably has a suggestive name: “mutated wiener”. Have fun with your weiner yams, rest of the world, we’ll stick with potatoes.

Bear’s head tooth mushroom
These things are about thirty kinds of weird. It looks like an old man’s beard made out of worms, and is actually a mushroom. They are edible, and apparently certain types have been found to be helpful in fighting cancer, stimulating nerve growth, and helping kill roundworms. They also grow branches, like a tree. Or possibly ent.

While many people love the taste of mushrooms, and an anti-cancer pizza would win all the Nobel prizes, but we think most people would agree that getting past the appearance would be pretty tough.

Red Cage fungus
It turns out giant flowers aren’t the only things that smell like dead bodies (aside from more dead bodies), and this mushroom is one of them. Fungi are usually a lot bigger than we realize. The bulk of it remains underground, the only part we can see is the mushroom, or “fruiting body”. But they don’t have to be mushroom shaped… in this case, it is lattice shaped and the interior is coated with slime. The stench exists for much the same reason as the flowers; flies distribute the spores allowing more stinky mushrooms to grow.

Unlike the bear’s head, this one you don’t want to eat. Eating one has been documented to cause stomach cramps, convulsions, loss of the ability to speak and can cause the person who ate it to fall into a stupor. You may be wondering who in hell would eat a mushroom that smells like a cadaver, well, the Wikipedia entry that mentions the symptoms also said that in the case documented above, the kid who ate the mushrooms was forced to throw up. And he didn’t just cough up the mushroom pieces, there were two worms as well.

Witch’s Butter and Black Jelly Roll
1. tremella mesenterica

2. exidia glandulosa

These two have possibly the most revolting names in fungal history. Witches butter is considered a delicacy in some places (Okay, in China, so take that info with a grain of salt) but most of the world seems to think they taste pretty bland. Both types are parasites of wood fungus, which for some reason I find deeply unsettling. They add to their appeal by also being called Yellow Brain Fungus.

Madagascar ocotillo
We couldn’t find much on these save that they are from Madagascar (imagine that) and they are endangered. They have the notable distinction of being on this list and not smelling like fecal matter or dead meat, but rather look like something used during the Inquisition to force confessions of heresy.

The durian tree is a pretty standard looking tropical tree, but what got it on the list was its fruit. It looks like a cross between a granny smith apple and a hedgehog, and while that picture is impressive enough, this one gives you some scale for these monsters:

It’s no wonder there are reports of these things falling out of trees and killing people every so often. They can weigh up to 7 lbs, and are called “the king of fruit” by enthusiasts. They could easily be called “spiky fart-melons” by non-enthusiasts, because durians have a smell that trumps even the death-beetle attracting plants and fungus further up the list. It has been described as smelling like “pig-c*?p, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.” In Singapore, they are banned by law on public transportation. That’s right, it smells worse than a city bus.

Silver Torch Cactus
Silver Torch cacti look like some kind of horrifying nest of worms. Oddly enough for a cactus, they prefer cold, and can survive temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius. If their regular appearance wasn’t bad enough, the more mature specimens have flowers, which look like more worms or monstrous fingers erupting from the cactus’s sides. They live in the mountains of Argentina and Bolivia, so don’t go there.

Austrocylinropuntia vestita
This is what the kids would look like if Cthulhu had hairy plant children. We could find even less on it than the Madagascan ocotillo, but judging from the fact that it is in a pot, we’re going to assume that since you can probably get one at Home Depot, they aren’t endangered.

Dragon’s Blood tree
Easily the coolest looking tree with the most awesome name ever. Ever. They are called “Dragon’s Blood” trees because their sap is deep red. They grow in such a way that they look like mother nature wanted a mushroom forest but the fungus just wouldn’t grow big enough, so she just redesigned a tree.

They only grow on one island in the world and are severely endangered, which sucks because every country should have these. Screw pine trees, I want a giant dragon mushroom tree for Christmas. The name and appearance makes me think they are crawling with Italian Plumbers.

Elephant’s Trunk
If Snuffleupagus had a trunk like this, Sesame Street would have been a barren alley. That is one of the most barbaric looking plants we have ever seen, and we can only imagine the defenseless little creatures that must get impaled on these horrors in the wild. They grow to be 12 feet tall, and if you damage them, they grow a brand new trunk out of the wound. This thing is the bloody hydra, in plant form.

Some species are grown for their latex-laden sap, and we pity the poor fools who have to work with them.

Tree Tumbo
Tree Tumbo is a special little plant; they only ever grow 2 leaves, and those leaves grow continuously for their entire lives, like rabbit teeth. Except they can’t chew anything as plants lack strong jaw muscles so they just keep growing and growing. Do you want to know what makes them impressive? They can live to be over a thousand years old! Some are believed to be over 2000! That’s right, if these things could talk, they could tell you what Jesus looked like, if he happened to make his way to Namibia at any point (and, you know, if they had eyes).

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