What are the most interesting plants in the world and why?

I’m just curious, all you botanists out there, what some of the most interesting plants in the world are and why. I read an article recently baobab tree on Global Voices describing the boabab tree and why it’s called the tree of life. I found it really interesting, and I decided I’d ask you guys about other really interesting plants…

By interesting, I mean in its medicinal capabilities, its special characteristics, or its just being plain bizarre.

Well, some sort of props must go out to barley and hops!

But my favorite plant in the whole world is nettles. Yep, that’s it. Stinging nettles. Urtica dioica. It’s yummy steamed with garlic, it’s medicinal (wonderful strengthening and cleansing tonic for the liver), it’s great to wield as a whip, chasing your brothers around the yard and stinging them. But my favorite thing about the nettle is that there’s an antidote to the stingers inside the plant. If you get stung, you should pick some leaves and stems and crush them, mash them between two stones or something. Then place the goo on the sting. It will take the sting right out!

I think there’s some sort of Moral Lesson in there, but I’ve not yet decided what it is.

(Dandelion is a runner up, just because it’s so damned useful and pretty, sitting there humbly in your yard just begging to be used in salads, steamed, wine, tea, fried dandelion flowers, etc. Passionflower’s my favorite plant that looks like it comes from outer space.)

No names in this post, just vague memories.

There’s a big - and when I say big I mean freaking huge - a couple of feet across - flower in Dublin’s botanical gardens, probably originally from the Amazonian rain forest or something - that flowers once a year, is really fleshy and bizarre-looking, and smells of rotting meat.

And there’s an orchid that has evolved simultaneously with some wasp, which mechanically deposits pollen on the wasp as it exits the flower.

Well, there’s that huge tree in Indonesia or some place like that which has an overwhelmingly horrible smell. I’ve never seen one, but it seems kind of interesting that it would smell so bad. And there’s the durian tree, the fruit of which has a bad odor, but people still like to eat it because it’s sweetness offsets the smell.

I always enjoyed Venus Flytraps and other carnivorous plants.

Carnivorous Plants

I should have mentioned this when I mentioned the flower: IIRC, they use flies to pollenate, so they need to smell attractive to flies. Shit or meat. Also, my flower blooms once every ten years. I was lucky to be there when it was out.

I actually quite like durian (the carrying of which is banned on public transport in several Asian countries). “Like eating strawberries in a public toilet” is one apt description.

I always thought the Peanut plant was kind of neat. It grows these little shoots above ground, that grow downwards and burrow into the soil. Then the peanuts grow out the end.

I plant seeds in my garden until I run out of space.
When they start to flower, if you pay attention, you can see them follow the sun. That just fascinates me. They look east in the morning, west in late afternoon. On cloudy days, they are all mixed up…some east, some west…but, come morning of the next day, they are all looking east, awaiting the suns trip.
Cool flower.
…and the squirrels come from miles around in the fall.

Thanks for the link, Qagqop!

Here is the amorphophallus.

I have not been able to grow gunnera or Devil’s Claw.

Probably Rafflesia

Many orchids have weird pollination systems, but perhaps the strangest is this one, which imitates a female wasp and persuades the male to copulate with it.

I am a fan of the welwitschia

They remind me of the sarlacc creature from Return of the Jedi for some reason.

Well, it may be a Weed of National Significance in northern Australia, but the Mimosa pigra or Giant Sensitive Plant is pretty cool. The leaves are touch sensitive, and close up as a defence mechanism. It is believed to have “escaped” from the Darwin Botanic Gardens in the 1890s, spread to the local wetlands, and from there is taking over the floodplains of Kakadu National Park.

Here is a site for the titan arum, which is also an amorphophallis. There are some very interesting facts about the plant and has many photos of the blooming process.

**Carniverousplant, ** your mention of the devil’s claw made me remember my grandfather. He used to take the ripened pods, make wire “legs” for them and paint them to look like strange birds. He died about 30 years ago but my Dad still keeps one of his creations on his shelf.

My selection for the most interesting plants are the entire euphorbia family because of its seemingly unending diversity. The poinsettia is an euphorbia and so is the plant known as the crown of thorns, as is the Mediterranean spurge. Take a look through several pages of Google images to see what I mean.

Colibri, I’d forgotten about the rafflesia until you’d mentioned it. What an awesome plant!

Honestly, it’s hard to beat marijuana. It looks awesome and there are so many different varieties with vivid colors. And, I mean, it gets you high. What other plant does that? Sure there are mushrooms and cactuses and other things that have psychedelic properties but the effects are very strong, sometimes overwhelming, and can be psychologically harmful. It’s hard to go wrong with pot though.

My weed smoking days are basically over, as of now, but I can still respect that plant.

If you hurt someone badly enough, don’t be surprised if they pulverise you?

You could check out the BBC-series with David Atttenborough, “The private life of plants.” Absolutely freaking awesome. It has beautiful footage of most of the plants mentioned in this thread.

Not only that, but it and its cousin hemp are also:

Medicine that have been used for thousands of years.
A food - The seeds can be grilled and eaten, or pressed for oil. I believe the plant itself can be used for animal feed.
A fuel. Hemp fuel was used by Henry Ford way back when (or so I’ve heard). But Hemp biodiesel is all over the Net.
For clothing. Hemp fiber is stronger than cotton.
For paper. Stronger, longer lasting than wood pulp paper.
For rope. Still is.
Plus, since it is a WEED it grows just about anywhere with very little need for pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. Because it grows so fast, in certain climates it can be grown a couple crops a year.

Neat stuff, but unfortunately because of its versatility it will always be counter productive to the pocketbooks and lobbyists of Pharmaceutical, Logging, Oil, Cotton and Alcohol companies.


Lots of fascinating, weird-ola, completely nutsoid plants

I am particularly partial to figs (for their wacked-out method of pollination) and carnivorous plants.

Oh, and epiphytes that live in dry climates are pretty fascinating, too. I’d love to know how on Earth these things get by. I saw epiphytes–little clusters of bryophyte-y things, on wires and other structures in the pretty freaking arid Brazilian northeast. I have no idea how on Earth they manage to get enough water to survive, but, somehow, they do.

Out of the mouths of babes and Dopers. :slight_smile:

I look forward to reading those articles, Scribble.
As far as interesting plants go, I have a fond spot in my heart for skunk cabbage, which - as I understand it - is able to control its internal temperature to some extent.
And not at all exotic, but I get a real kick out of watching my evening primroses open at dusk each night. Reminds me of time-lapse photography.