While all flowers are beautiful, there are some that will completely stop you and make you forget what you were doing, distracted by the most striking and unusual sights that nature alone is capable of.
This is certainly possible in your own garden, for stunning blooms to take you by surprise, cementing their place on next year’s plant order list, but there are many that you should know about, regardless of whether you can grow them in your own garden or not.
All of the flowers on this list will spark more questions than they give answers. Some of them mimic animals, while others look like figures we can only imagine.
Amorphophallus Titanum ‘Titan Arum’
Also known as the Corpse Lily, this is one of the largest unbranched flowers on Earth that we currently know of, hence the name ‘Titan’.
This flower is capable of reaching 10 feet tall, making for a stunning sight, a true giant. The spathe of this plant is a deep, rich green on the outside, and the inner is a wine red.
It’s part of the Araceae plant family, and you may recognize one of its relatives, the Peace lily, or Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum.
The Titan Arum is only found in Sumatra, where it is classified as endangered. It also gives off the worst smell, referring to its other common name, ‘Corpse Flower’.
This horrific stench is what attracts beetles that eat carrion and flies which are attracted to meat, and these insects are the pollinators of the small flowers within the spadix.
As if this wasn’t interesting enough, the spadix is kept around the same temperature as the human body, which not only helps to attract these insects like a magnet, but also helps the stench of the flower reach further away, acting as a homing beacon.
Tacca chantrieri ‘Black Bat Flower’
One of the strangest flowers which is also worth seeing in the flesh is the black bat flower, or Tacca chantrieri. It’s also one of the largest flowers in the world, too.
The flowers consist of smaller clusters of between 20 and 40 dark purple blooms, which look like small bat heads, accompanied by large ruffled bracts which look like the ears of a bat.
If that wasn’t enough, these gorgeous blooms also feature ‘whiskers’, which cascade all the way to the forest floor in places.
The bat flower is a tropical plant which resides in the understory of the rainforest, but if you’re an avid houseplant enthusiast, you can try growing the bat flower yourself, as the bulbs are available commercially.
It will be a challenge to mimic its natural conditions indoors, as you’ll need to give them plenty of shade, bucket loads of moisture, and very rich soil.
Barringtonia Asiatica ‘Sea Poison Tree’
Hailing from the coasts across the Indian Oceans and the Pacific, the Sea Poison tree or Barringtonia asiatica is a very unusual plant.
If you ever had one of those fiber optic night lights as a child, this plant may look a little familiar, with its silvery fringed flowers! If these lovely, soft flowers weren’t enough, they are swiftly followed by ‘box fruit’, which look exactly how they sound.
Interestingly enough, the fruit behaves the same way as a coconut, ‘migrating’ on the ocean current, and the box fruit is able to survive floating along the water for up to fifteen years before it starts to degrade.
Once the fruit reaches land, rainfall germinates the seeds within the fruit.
It’s quite a tall plant in itself, reaching anywhere from 7 to 25 meters high.
It’s worth noting that while this is a beautiful plant, all parts of the plant are poisonous, and should be avoided. The fruit itself is often used to stun or even kill fish in order to eat them, without doing any harm to the flesh of the fish.
Chiranthodendron pentadactylon ‘Devil’s Hand’
Found naturally in Guatemala and Mexico, the Devil’s Hand, or Chiranthodendron pentadactylon is a very unusual flower that’s sure to spark your imagination.
Also known as Mano de dragon, Palo de mecate, and Camxóchitl, these are all fitting names, as the flowers are a bright crimson, with a powdery pale underside.
The real star of these flowers are the five ‘fingers’ in the center, which are warning-red and yellow, and look like they’re reaching out from the heart of the bloom.
These blooms contrast well against the architectural shape of the tree, with deep green foliage which has paler mahogany undersides.
Classed as vulnerable in the wild, these almost-frightening red flowers are traditionally used to help alleviate heart disease. The thick bark of the tree is used in rope-making, and the leaves are often used as a food wrap.
Cuphea Llavea ‘Bat Face Cuphea’
If you don’t get close to this plant, you may simply appreciate it for its brightly pigmented crimson and royal purple flowers.
But once you do get closer, you’ll notice that the furry purple part of the flower, when looked at from face on, looks like a bat’s face, with the pointed tips turning into red petals resembling its ears.
It doesn’t just vaguely look like a bat face. In fact, it looks like a caricature or something you’d see on a Halloween decoration. And this is something you could have in your own garden, if you like.
It’s a lovely shrub that will add some drama into any green space, loved by hummingbirds and other pollinators. It needs a sunny position, preferably, where it will produce as many flowers as possible.
The Bat Face Cuphea requires well-draining soil, and while it can withstand a few dry spells, you’ll see the best out of this plant with consistent and regular watering.
It’s worth knowing that this shrub grows quickly, and it will fill your garden with color from late spring all the way through until the first frost hits.
While it does produce an incredible amount of flowers, it’s not a plant that you need to deadhead, freeing up some time to give your other plants the attention they deserve.
In colder parts of the world, the Bat Face Cuphea can be grown as an annual plant for summer, or you can overwinter it as a houseplant to ensure it survives the winter.
Dracula simia ‘Monkey Face Orchid’
While all orchids are beautiful, there are some that everyone should know about, as their appearance provokes very real questions.
The Monkey Face orchid (see also Everything You Should Know About The Monkey Orchid), well, looks like the face of a monkey, specifically a Capuchin monkey, which shouldn’t come as a surprise from the name.
While with some flowers you really have to squint to see the resemblance that the name refers to, this one is clear even from a distance, and it makes a stunning sight.
Like many orchids, the Monkey Face orchid is rather particular about the conditions it will grow and flower in. As with any plant, the better you can mimic its natural conditions, the better your plant will thrive.
In this case, to mimic its natural habitat of the high altitude forests in South America, you’ll need to provide it with very low light levels, the highest humidity possible, and fairly cool temperatures.
You need to get the balance right between a good amount of airflow and humidity, while maintaining fairly cool temperatures.
The easiest way to do this is to use a mini greenhouse or a terrarium, where you have complete control over the atmosphere.
It is worth knowing, however, that it’s extremely rare to successfully grow one outside its natural environment, and any seeds that you may get online may not germinate, or be the actual plant you want in the first place.
Heliconia rostrata ‘Lobster Claw’
Also known as the false bird of paradise, the Lobster Claw, or Heliconia rostrata is famed for its cascading clusters of brilliant red and greenish yellow flowers that look like lobster claws.
It hails from parts of Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Costa Rica, among others. In warmer parts of the world, it’s grown as a tropical ornamental plant, providing a vital source of nectar for many birds.
The leaves are similar to that of a banana tree, adding a lot of interest when the flowers aren’t in bloom.
Don’t be fooled by the flower’s appearance, the reddish parts are actually bracts which protect the true flowers underneath, and use birds such as hummingbirds for pollination.
It’s a repeat bloomer, and can reach a maximum of 3 feet tall, provided that they get plenty of warm temperatures, water, and rich nutrients.
Impatiens bequaertii ‘Dancing Girls’
Rarely seen even in nature, Impatiens bequaertii or ‘Dancing Girls’ is just as unique as it is rare. Beautiful brilliant-white blooms take the shape of dancing girls in dresses, although sometimes these blooms also come in a pale pink.
This stunning plant hails from East Africa, and each bloom is capable of reaching 2.5cm long, while the plant stays compact at barely a foot across.
The plant is happy to trail or climb, making for a wonderful display whichever way you choose, but the hardest part will be finding them from a reputable source in the first place.
Orchis italica ‘Naked Man Orchid’
You didn’t think that there would only be one orchid on this list, did you? Considering the fantastic variety of orchids in the wild and available commercially, this would be a disservice.
A unique orchid, the Orchis italica or the ‘Naked Man’ bears flowers exactly how they sound. The blooms look like little purple or pink men without any clothes, certain to bring out raised eyebrows and bemused smiles.
It is threatened in its native Mediterranean territory, unfortunately. Like many threatened plants, its unusual appearance, as well as its medicinal qualities, are its downfall.
Pleurothallis truncata ‘Bonnet Orchids’
If you imagine a cascade of a lily of the valley, but with sunset-orange blooms instead of white or pink, you’re halfway there to a bonnet orchid, or Pleurothallis truncata.
These striking plants are very adaptable, and can grow as ground cover, as trailers or climbers.
While they are part of the orchid family, they are much easier to look after than what you’d normally expect, as they like much cooler temperatures, low levels of humidity, and prefer high altitudes where they can get it.
You’ll also see them labeled as bonnet orchids, due to the shape of the flowers.
Rafflesia keithii ‘Corpse Flower’
Part of the Rafflesia plant family, this is another stinker. Sorry, it’s not a bad plant, it just smells like one!
This plant is only found in Sabah, in Borneo, and because it doesn’t grow leaves, stems, or roots, you might be confused about how it grows at all.
Well, all plants belonging to the Rafflesia genus are parasitic, which means they depend on host plants to survive.
Unlike epiphytes, which simply grow on other plants rather than in the ground and cause no damage, the roots dig into the host plant, extracting the nutrients from the host they require to survive.
Rafflesia keithii, or the corpse flower, is capable of reaching one meter wide.
Strongylodon Macrobotrys ‘Jade Vine’
One of the most interestingly-pigmented flowers around, the Jade Vine features jade-green, almost blue flowers (see also Flowering Vines That Grow Quickly).
These blooms cascade from the striking, light green leaves, which climb up any structure they can reach.
You might be surprised to know that it’s a relative of the sweet pea, as it comes from the same plant family, Leguminosae. It comes from the rainforests in the Philippines, where it is threatened due to habitat loss.