Today is the last day of 2019 and I just want to say thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read my blog this year! It has been such a rewarding experience to create content for you and I look forward to seeing what 2020 brings. I wish joy, growth, and learning to all of you.

Next week we will go back to the normal, in-depth content. To finish off the holidays, however, we will do one more fun post on some strange, fun plant facts!

1. Lifesaver plants were not named for saving lives…

Lifesaver plants are stem succulents in the genus Huernia. They earned their name due to their unique, star-shaped flowers that have a Lifesaver candy-like ring around the middle.

These plants are native to Africa and Arabia and are, interestingly enough, in the same family as Hoya, Dischidia, String of Hearts, Milkweed, and (the plant I am featuring for #2) Stapelia!!

2. Stapelias have flowers that smell like rotting flesh

Photo by: Michael Joachim Lucke, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aasblume_Aug_2005.jpg

Stapelias are spineless succulent plants that look a lot like cacti. They produce gorgeous flowers that smell like rotting flesh!! The grotesque smell is meant to attract pollinators, like flies that eat decaying matter. While you might think that the smell of their blooms would deter people from keeping these plants in their homes, a few species are kept as houseplants regularly!

(Technically Lifesaver plants can have a carrion smell also, though I will admit that when my Huernia bloomed I was not bothered by the smell. I’ve heard that Stapelias are much more pungent. Do you have one and know? Let us know in the comments!)

3. Blue Agave makes tequila possible!

Photo by: Kurt Stüber, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave_tequilana#/media/File:Agave_tequilana0.jpg

The plant commonly called Blue Agave, Agave tequilana, is the base ingredient of tequila. Blue Agave is native to Mexico and one particular cultivar, Weber Azul, is specifically utilized for tequila production.

When growing agave for tequila, the plant is ready for harvest between 7 to 14 years. Only its core is used to produce the sugar that will eventually be fermented into alcohol.

While the specific cultivar used to produce tequila isn’t often kept as a houseplant, many other cultivars of agave are. Check them out – they are quite beautiful!

4. This Corpse Flower is a Parasite

Photo by: ma_suska, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafflesia_arnoldii#/media/File:Rafflesia_sumatra.jpg

One particularly stinky flower, called the Corpse Flower or Carrion Lily, is actually the product of a parasite! A spot on an infected host plant swells to the size of a basketball and eventually produces a huge bloom, up to 3 feet wide. This bloom, like a couple of other plants we’ve discussed on this list, attracts flies for pollination through the smell of carrion or rotting flesh.

What makes this flower even more interesting is that it is only a flower; it does not have leaves, a stem, or any of the other parts we generally think of a plant requiring before producing a bloom.

This flower is not to be confused with the other Corpse Flower grown in greenhouses that we will talk about next!

Read more about it here: https://harvardmagazine.com/2017/03/colossal-blossom

5. This Infamous Corpse Flower is an Aroid, like many of the houseplants we keep, with a 10 foot high flower

Photo by: Sailing Moose, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amorphophallus_titanum_(corpse_flower)_-_2.jpg

If you are like me, you think of the Corpse Flower many botanical gardens grow as this particularly exotic specimen that is unlike any other plant. And in some ways that is true!

The Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum, is known for its incredibly large inflorescence reaching up to 10 feet that only occurs every few years, opens at night, and stinks of (you guessed it) rotting flesh.

This potent fragrance attracts beetles and flies to pollinate it. The plant is only capable of blooming after more than 7 years of healthy growth.

While all of this plant is certainly very unique and even somewhat alien-like, it isn’t that unlike many of our own houseplants! It is, in fact, an aroid like the Philodendrons, Pothos, Syngoniums, Monsteras, and many others we keep in our homes. Aroids are classified by the structure of their flowers, which the corpse flower shares!

And while I am not suggesting you run out and get yourself a Corpse Flower if you are successfully keeping a philodendron currently, I am suggesting that it is cool to know it isn’t that different from some plants we bring home regularly!

6. Some plants build a mansion for ants inside their trunks

Photo by: derrick1, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2561229

There is an entire genus of plants referred to as Ant Plants, Hydnophytum, because they literally house ants inside of them. These plants are epiphytic, meaning that they live on trees and other plants. At the base of their stem, they form a structure called a caudex, which is a swollen or enlarged stem right above the roots.

Inside the caudex, an elaborate tunneling system is available that mimics the underground world of ants. This allows the ants to live up in the trees, away from predators and the weather. In turn, the ants provide the plant nutrients from waste and a form of protection, as the ants will defend their home should someone attack.

Some of these plants are kept as houseplants. Don’t worry– ants are not a necessary component for the houseplant-friendly species to be kept successfully. Also, often ant plants only attract a specific species of ant, most of which are native to New Guinea.

7. Bat flowers are part of the yam family

File:Tacca chantrieriRHu02.JPG
Photo by: Meneerke bloem, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tacca_chantrieriRHu02.JPG

This beautiful flower is called a bat flower (Tacca chantrieri). The flowers can be up to 12 inches across. Believe it or not, this plant is in the yam family (the yams that we eat!). While it is typically grown for ornamental purposes due to the beauty of its flowers, it can be eaten and has also been used in medicine.

Coincidentally, these flowers are known to bloom around the Fall season, making them a perfect Halloween plant!

Happy New Year! See you next year!

Sources used for this post:

  1. http://www.ianchadwick.com/tequila/harvesting.htm
  2. https://www.logees.com/life-saver-plant-huernia-zebrina.html
  3. http://pza.sanbi.org/stapelia
  4. https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/our-garden/notable-plant-collections/titan-arum.aspx
  5. https://www.pha-tad-ke.com/the-black-bat-flower/

Click to read more Top 10 of 2019 posts:
Top 10 of 2019: My biggest plant fails
Top 10 of 2019: My Favorite Cacti and Euphorbia
Top 10 of 2019: My Favorite Houseplants of the Year!

Click to read last week’s article: Better Ways to Know that Your Houseplant Needs to Be Watered

A Natural Curiosity
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