TALK ABOUT ART IMITATING LIFE! The 10 flowers here, quite a number of them being orchids don’t look anything like the flowers they are supposed to look like. In fact, some of them are bizarre to the point of creepy because they resemble birds, monkey faces, insects, goats, donkeys, lions, tigers and even the human form.
Now science has tried to explain the imitation as an act of survival and procreation ─ mimicking the look of an insect, for example, to attract a pollinator.
In The Nature of Orchids, the Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera, looks like a fly to attract another fly to come around and pollinate it. It may also give off a scent resembling that of the female insect so that the male will attempt to mate with it and hence, pick up pollen. The same theory applies to the Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera.
But how do you explain flowers that look like naked men or even Darth Vader? I’m serious! You scroll down and take a look.
1 The Ballerina Orchid
“Ballerina girl, you are so lovely, with you standing there…” So sang Lionel Ritchie way back in the 1980s. Well, these pretty dancing girls are Ballerina Orchids known by a less romantic moniker of Caladenia melanema (two pixes on left), scientifically anyway.
There’s no mistaking this graceful dancer is doing a pirouette with her arms raised like a ballerina in a tutu. As flowers, these are terrestrial spider orchids that grow singly or in groups in different parts of Australia. There are, of course, several varieties of the Ballerina girl.
2 The Flying Duck Orchid
Found in Queensland to South Australia, to even Tasmania in eucalyptus woodland, in coastal or swampy shrubland and heathland, the Caleana major, or the Flying Duck Orchid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caleana looks like a duck in flight. It is a small orchid. The flower gives off a smell that attracts insects such as male sawflies which pollinate the flower in a process known as pseudocopulation. In 1986 this orchid was featured on an Australian postage stamp.
(To read Poultry in Motion: 10 of the World’s Most Stunning Chickens, click on link.)
3 The Monkey Orchid
Apparently there are a few species of orchids that look like monkeys. Why monkey faces seem to be a favourite, we will never know. But here they are in their uncanny resemblance. There is Dracula saulii, a tiny fluffy-looking white monkey-faced orchid discovered only recently in Peru (2006) and Dracula simia, also a small orchid discovered growing at altitudes of 3,000 ft in the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. The simia end of the name refers to primates, in this case ─ a baboon, and the flowers smell like ripe oranges.
These “sinister” plants come under the Dracula species because of the two long spurs descending from the flower that resemble Bram Stoker’s famous vampire fangs. And the two monkey orchids named here are by far not the only ones. Actually, says Wikipedia, there are as many as 118 Dracula species! They are all native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru but are now grown all over the world.
More about Dracula Orchids
With a name like that you know you’ve got to take a bigger bite out of this species. The Dracula orchid type, say horticulturalists, is closely related to Masdevallias, another large kind of flowering plant which is a subtribe of the orchid family. The lip of the flower is usually larger (presumably to attract flies) and the flower stems grow horizontally or downward like Dracula’s fangs. Dracula orchids may not be vampires, they certainly don’t suck blood but some are dark types like the aptly-named Dracula vampira! See pic on right.
Watch a Whole lot of Monkey-faced Orchids below
4 The Naked Man Orchid
The Naked Man orchid or the Hanging Man orchid has a scientific name of Orchis italic. Sometimes, it is called the Italian orchid for obvious reasons. The species which grows in large numbers in the Mediterranean region have petals that are purple in colour and white. These little guys which grow in clusters, sport eyes and bright smiles as well as conspicuous willies as you can see. Naturally, they are often used as aphrodisiacs and virility boosters and of course, the plant is edible.
5 The Parrot Flower
Are these love birds? Nope, they are flowers. And for the first time in this article, we’re not talking about orchids but balsams. The Parrot Flower ─ Impatiens Psittacina ─ is a very rare plant from the balsam family that was first discovered by A.H. Hildebrand, a British official around 1900. He came across it in the Shan States of Upper Burma. Seeds of it were presented to the Royal Gardens (Kew) in 1899 and it flowered in 1900 and a description was published in 1901 by botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker that the bloom looks like a “cockatoo in flight”. The plant is found in Thailand, Burma and parts of India. It is a protected species.
6 Swaddled Babies
These tulip orchids, also known scientifically as the Angloua Uniflora are nicknamed Swaddled Babies because well, they look like swaddled babies or Cabbage Patch kids. But make no mistake about their size even though they are referred to as babies. Swaddled Babies orchids are one of the largest plants growing up to 2ft in height. The plant was discovered in the Columbian Andes between 1777 to 1788. The flower doesn’t always look like this in all its life stages, only at a certain point in its development when it is opening to become a fully developed bloom. Each flower blooms from a single stem from the base of the pseudobulbs and gives off a very sweet fragrance attracting insects for pollination.
7 Dove Orchid or the Holy Ghost Orchid
Looking like it’s about to anoint you, this flower looks positively like a dove surrounded by a halo. Hence it is aptly nicknamed the Dove or the Holy Ghost orchid. Its scientific name is less divine. Called Peristeria, from the Greek word peristerion meaning “from dove”, the orchid is commonly found to grow across much of South America, along with Panama, Trinidad and Costa Rica. The flower exudes peace in its countenance as sitting within the embrace of all-white petals is an entire dove, complete with raised wings and a yellow beak. What a blessed sight.
8 The White Egret Orchid
Here is another flower in the bird series but this time it is back to the orchid species. The White Egret Flower or Habenaria radiata, is also called the Egret flower of the Far East. Also known as Pecteilis radiata, Crane Orchid, Egret Orchid, Peacock Orchi and Sagi ─ the last name being a Japanese word, the Egret orchid is a hardy terrestrial flower. The bloom looks much like a pristine white egret with its feathery wings spread in flight.
9 The Happy Alien
Now there’s a happy camper! The Happy Alien as it is nicknamed or Calceolaria uniflora, is a plant that amuses you just by looking at it. It’s not an orchid per se but does it matter? That funny face just brightens your day. The good news is, this is an evergreen, perennial plant which means these guys are always around year round to the cold climates of Tierra del Fuego in the southern region of South America. Also known as Darwin’s Slipper Flower (‘slipper flower’ is a generic common name for all species within the Calceolaria genus), Calceolaria uniflora was first discovered by Charles Darwin during his expedition around South America – the Voyage of the Beagle, 1831–1836. In fact this species was originally named Calceolaria darwinii. The Happy Alien loves the frosty mountains and lives in coastal and riverine sands and rocks, moorland, feldmark, clifftops and steppe. The troops hang out together, grow in clusters like a community and are no taller than 4 to 5 inches in height from the ground up.
10 Darth Vader Flower
“I am your Fazher,” he said, just before he gasped his last in Return of the Jedi. And we thought we had seen the last of him. Well, were we wrong! Darth Vader lives again as we can see but apparently reincarnated as a flower.
Called Aristolochia salvador platensis, the Dark Lord reincarnate is a member of the Aristolochiaceae or the Dutchman’s pipe family of birthworts and woody, climbing plants. This genus of climbers and woodplants includes as many as 500 species but the Darth Vader is the only one that looks like anyone from the Star Wars franchise. (There was some news though, erroneous that may be, written in a website that Darth Vader was discovered in the depths of the Sarawak jungles recently. That got us whooping but upon further research, it seems the Darth Vader plant is actually native to Brazil from a long time ago, maybe even before Star Wars was ever thought up by Steven Spielberg. Well, we’ll never know who copied who.
This is a small plant actually, with “Darth Vader” himself growing to only 5cm or 2in. Such a shame. In the movie, he was over 6ft 5in for sure. He stinks too you know, the smell is like rotting flesh and the reason we believe is to call upon the forces of the insect world to work with him to reproduce himself.
Well, now you have discovered that petals aren’t just innocuous pretty things and that the flower world hides weird and wonderful secrets you never knew you never knew. If you have been fascinated, here’s a treat for you on MORE bizarre flowers before we sign off. 😆
Flowers that resemble Kissable Lips and all: