After millions of years of evolution and development, an enormous number of different plant variations have been created. Of all the plants that have ever lived most are long since extinct, but still around a third of a million plant species are estimated to be surviving today. Evolution has created some particularly strange and tight examples, and here is STS’ attempt to compile a list of those that we find to be the most interesting.
10. Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes)
Nepenthes is a genus of carniverous plant that encompasses over 120 species, native to Indonesia, the Phillipines, and South-East Asia. This species of plant has three primary components: the lid, the rim, and the pitcher. The purpose of the lid is to keep rain water from collecting in the pitcher, and the colorful rim functions as a lure to insects. The plant produces a syrupy liquid in the bottom of the pitcher that attracts, and drowns, potential prey. The walls are coated with a waxy substance, so when an insect slips inside it can’t escape, and the plant has ample time to digest its new meal.
9. Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)
The Sensitive Plant is native to Central and South America, and gets it name because its leaflets fold in and droop when they are touched. This is caused by a drop of pressure in certain cells, and leads to a very cool effect. The leaves also react to heat and light which causes the plant to fold up every evening. A video of this plant in action can be found here.
8. Aloe Plant
If you are pale and have ever been to Hawaii or Mexico, then you owe a lot to this plant. Unlike most medicinal plants that have to be processed, cooked, or dissolved to use, the Aloe Plant is naturally ready. Simply break one of the leaves in half and you will find Aloe Vera, a gel that helps relieve the pain of sun burn. Some claim that it has additional healing properties, but there have not been sufficient studies to give conclusive evidence.
7. Rafflesia arnoldii
This flower was discovered in 1822 during a jungle expedition in Sumatra, and is considered to be the largest flower in the world. It can grow to be up to one meter in diameter, and weigh as much as 25 lbs. Despite its size, it is incredibly difficult to find because it takes 9-21 months for plant to develop, and the flower lasts for a maximum of five days. Some who have been able to come in contact with the flower describe it as smelling like a decomposing carcass.
6. Sundew (Drosera)
The Sundew is a carnivorous plant that is covered in small glands that protrude from its stem and produce a viscous liquid. Insects are attracted to the secretions, and when they come in contact with them they become trapped. Over time the plant’s tendrils fold around the prey and produce enzymes that digest it.
5. Psychoactive Plants
A Psychoactive plant contains chemical substances that effect the central nervous system and can temporarily alter perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior. Traditionally shamans have used psychoactive plants to induce a psychedelic euphoria that would allow them to understand the world in new ways. More recently the plants have become more recreational, and despite all the dangers associated with plants of this type, the power they have to change reality has earned them a spot on this list.
4. Resurrection Fern (Polypodium polypodioides)
The Resurrection Fern is a normal looking fern with an incredible ability to withstand drought. During dry spells, the plant curls up into a ball, turns brown, and appears to be dead. If it comes in contact with water, it uncurls and comes back to life. It has been estimated that it can survive for 100 years without water. Between 340 and 280 million years ago these plants were 100 foot tall trees with 6 foot trunks — that would be a sight to see.
3. Telegraph Plant (Codariocalyx motorius)
The Codariocalyx Motorius is another plant capable of rapid movement. The Telegraph Plant is much bigger than most other species of its kind; it can grow up to 2 meters high. The period of its movements is from 3-5 minutes, and when all of the leaves move at once it creates a very cool effect. The plant is native to Asia but can also be found in the South Pacific. I’m struggling to find a way to make this particular plant useful, but it is pretty awesome. Maybe as a secret alarm system… You can find a video of the plant moving here.
2. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The Venus Flytrap is the most well-known carnivorous plant, and is especially amazing to watch. There are small trigger hairs on the leaves which causes them to fold together when they are touched. The leaves close in less than a second, and the teeth-like spikes on the edge keep larger insects from escaping. The Venus Flytrap is native only to the nitrogen-poor bogs and savannas in North and South Carolina, US.
1. Romanesco Broccoli
1. Romanesco Broccoli
Romanesco Broccoli is an edible relative of the cauliflower. It was discovered in the 16th century in Italy, and has become a fixation of mathematical types. For some reason, the plant grows in a self similar shape that spirals logarithmically towards the center. The design is similar to a fractal which is a complicated design produced by simple mathematic rules. This plant fascinated the STS staff so much that we acquired some seeds of our own, and we will be growing a dozen of these plants shortly.