Science - Nature
By: - at August 5, 2013

Top 14 of the World's Rarest Flowers

beautiful rare flowers purple by mountainsideThe workings of nature are truly a thing of wonder. Nothing quite compares to the beauty of the world in its unmolested and unrefined state. From every corner of the globe, strange and beautiful flowers have emerged to take center stage in the work of botanists and horticulturists alike. These exotic offerings cover all types of flora imaginable, providing a glimpse into just how unique the various paths of evolution can be. For even the most seasoned scientist or researcher, reviewing these rare and intriguing offerings is far from ordinary. The following rare flowers are sure to pique your interest and cause you to reevaluate just how much you think you know about the quirks and oddities of the natural world.


14)  Jade Vine  (Strongylodon macrobotrys)
Located exclusively in the Philippines, the Jade Vine, otherwise known as Strongylodon macrobotrys, is a beautiful and rare specimen. The physical characteristics of this plant can be described as delicate and fascinating. The woody vine is covered in claw shaped flowers, giving it a unique look. These claw-like outcroppings sprout from hanging trusses and can grow up to three meters in length. The coloring of the flowers varies between a shade of mint green and a blue green tint.


By Torontofiredancer, via Wikimedia Commons

Due to the deforestation of its natural habitat, as part of the expansion of the Filipino people, as well as a shifting climate, the Jade Vine has rapidly dwindled in numbers and lost a significant portion of the population's pollinators. This lack of viability and struggle to propagate has led the vine to be considered an endangered species. While the long term outlook for the plant is grim, supporters and environmentalists alike are working hard to find new methods and compromises with the expanding population that will keep this species alive long into the future. Without such collaborative efforts, the Jade Vine will certainly face the prospect of extinction.


13)  Campion  (Silene tomentosa)
The next flower on the list actually almost didn't make it at all. The Campion, or Silene tomentosa, was initially considered to be an extinct species of flower by the scientific community in 1992. However, this was not quite the case. In 1994 a most fortuitous event occurred for Campion enthusiasts around the world. A hiker, working through the rugged and imposing cliffs of Gibraltar, stumbled upon a single Campion specimen. From here, the fate of one of the rarest flowers ever was drastically altered.  Below is an image of the Red Campion in the wild. 

Red Campion:
Red Campion Flower
By Romfordian, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists proceeded to nurture the Campion back to health and viability. Beginning with the Millennium Seed Bank in West Sussex, England, the propagation of this rare species began with great fervor. From here, samples and colonies were grown at the Almeda Gibraltar Botanic Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens in London. With some dedicated effort, this species that was once presumed extinct now has a shot at returning to a stable and sustainable position among its contemporaries.

In regards to the characteristics of the plant, the Campion is a beautiful lavender flower with multiple double petal outgrowths. The natural habitat of the plant is exclusively found on the cliffs of Gibraltar, allowing for only the most adventurous of outdoor enthusiasts to view the plant in its natural habitat. It is here that the plant can be found hanging from the cliffs of the mountainous areas of this British Overseas Territory.


12)  Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers  (Cypripedium calceolus)

Purple Lady Slipper:
purple lady slipper
By Ragesoss, via Wikimedia Commons

As far as unique and rare offerings go, few flowers can match the Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers, also known as Cypripedium calceolus. This member of the orchid family has an odd and intriguing history attached to it. Initially Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers were found across almost all of Europe and the United Kingdom as well. However, shifts in populations, changes in the environment, and a weak approach to adaptation in general forced this flower to the brink of extinction.

Today, Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers are located in only one area of the world a single golf course in the Untied Kingdom. The location of this golf course is a closely guarded secret by scientists, although an information leak has exposed that it is somewhere in the Lancashire, England. In fact, this rare orchid species is so valued that is has officially been under police protection for almost 100 years. Few flowers can lay claim to such a unique set of circumstances.

Outside of the unusual story that follows the remaining Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers, this orchid is also known for its beauty. Combining a bivalved leafy growth, both purple and yellow sections are on display. Like most orchids, the flower exudes a delicate leaf structure and a stalk appendage which serves as the base of the plant.  Below is a yellow lady slipper:

Yellow Lady Slipper:
Yellow lady slipper

Such beauty serves as a strong factor in the push for protection for the Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers population.


11)  Corpse Flower  (Amorphophalus titanum)
The Corpse Flower is an oddity, even among its rare flower brethren. This plant is found only in low lying rainforests that are scattered across the various islands of Indonesia. What makes this plant so intriguing is that its survival is based off of the existence of another species of plant altogether. Without the Tetrastigma Vine, the Corpse Flower would have been pushed out of existence long ago.

Corpse Flower
By US Botanic Garden via Wikimedia Commons

Because this flower is a rootless, leafless, bodiless, and stemless parasite, it gains all of its nutrition from the Tetrastigma Vine. This dependency may seem odd at first glance, but it is also found in other evolutionary tracts across the globe. Adding to the intrigue of this story is the fact that the Corpse Flower is also a carrion plant which seems appropriate, given its name. As a carrion plant, this flower exudes a unique smell that is similar to the stench of rotten flesh and meat. This mechanism attracts beetles and other bugs which aid the Corpse Flower in the pollination process by spreading essential components to other areas.

When reviewing the physical aspects of the Corpse Flower, remember that beauty is most certainly in the eye of the beholder. This specimen has several flap-like, fleshy red leaves and a bulbous, open core in the middle. When in bloom, this core releases the foul, rotten smell mentioned above. The blooming process only lasts for a week. After this process is finished, the flower abruptly dies.





10)  Kadupul Flower  (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)
While the Kadupul Flower, otherwise referred to as Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is not on the brink of extinction, it is rare for an entirely different reason. This flower can be found only in the forests of Sri Lanka and blooms only during the nighttime hours. This blooming is exceedingly rare and is properly viewed only under the most specific of circumstances. Once the blooming process is complete, the flower withers before the approach of dawn. Why this process occurs is unknown to botanists.

The beauty of the blooming Kadupul Flower is unmatched in the eyes of many. With long, thin white petals and a delicate yellow core, many individuals cherish the opportunity to view this rare process that occurs only in the dead of night. On the spiritual side, this flower also holds a unique significance to those of the Buddhist tradition.  Take a quick look below:

Kadupul Flower:
Kadupul Flower

According to the practitioners of this faith, the Kadupul Flower blooms to signify the descent of the Nagas - a Buddhist practicing early human culture. Its believed that the flower is a gift to Buddha from the tribe to signify their appreciation of his teachings and works. In Japan, the flower is also revered and referred to as the "Beauty under the Moon."


9)  Attenborough's Pitcher Plant  (Nepenthes Attenboroughii)
Another rare flower that hails from the Philippines, the Attenborough's Pitcher Plant has an intriguing history attached to its name. After a two-month expeditionary trip into the heart of the jungle on several islands, Stewart R. McPherson, Volker B. Heinrich, and Alastiar S. Robinson discovered this plant. This discovery was considered an amazing success, as the point of the expedition was to catalog the various indigenous pitcher plants of the Philippines, of which the Nepenthese attenboroughii now claims membership.

Nepenthes Attenboroughii

The plant was named after British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Because of his affinity for the various members of the pitcher plant genus, the homage is definitely appropriate. Like most other pitcher plants, the Nepenthes attenboroughii has a large gourd which is used to lure in insects and other small prey. From here, the carnivorous plant traps and digests the unsuspecting victims in an efficient manner. A unique attribute to this rare plant is the size of its gourd. Considering that it can grow up to 1.5. meters in length, the Nepenthes attenboroughii is one of the largest members of its genus.

The Nepenthes With a Tree Frog Awaiting Prey:
Nepenthes Attenboroughii Trapping a snake
By Katja Rembold, via Wikimedia Commons


8)  Parrot's Beak  (Lotus berthelotii)
The Lotus berthelotii, or Parrot's Beak, is one of the more stunning additions to this list. With a long stalk that has several flowers attached to it, few plants showcase the beauty of this offering. Each flower resembles the curvature of a parrot's beak, giving the flower its unique name. The coloring of the petals is often a dark orange, with tints of red at the tips and yellow at the base.

Lotus berthelotii, or Parrot's Beak
By Juanillo1976, via Wikimedia Commons

As for history, the Parrot's Beak has plenty. Originally, this plant was located only in the Canary Islands. However, it is now unknown if this plant is currently alive in the wild. While many specimens are kept in captivity, including those for sale to you and other plant enthusiasts, the loss of the entire sunbird population in the Parrot Beak's native home has led to an almost complete destruction of wild populations of the flower.

Scientists have sought to find a similar aviary species to cover the roles of the sunbird in the pollination process of the Parrot's Beak. However, no known substitute has been found. Thankfully, artificial pollination has kept this beautiful and rare flower from facing complete annihilation.


7)  Koki'o  (Kokai cookei)
Coming from the beautiful islands of Hawaii, the Koki'o (Kokai cookei) is an exceedingly rare blossoming tree. Originally, the tree was discovered in 1860. At that point in time, scientists believed that only three specimens of the plant existed in the wild. With this knowledge, efforts were made to bring the plant to botanic gardens to help avoid an extinction event. However, they felt they had failed when the last seedlings died in 1950.

Kokai cookei
By David Eickhoff from Pearl City, Hawaii, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Thankfully, a single remaining Koki'o was found in 1978. However, the story continues to unfold in dramatic fashion with this specimen being destroyed in a fire in 1978. Miraculously a branch somehow escaped the flames and led to the creation of 23 other trees. With this population, the continued existence of the Koki'o is in much better shape.

The Koki'o is revered for its beautiful blossoms. Annually, each tree produces several hundred glorious red blossoms. These curved flowers produce a red stalk that matches the vibrant shades of the petals. In total, the tree can grow up to 11 meters in height. Consider yourself lucky if you are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of these beautiful and rare trees in the midst of blossoming.


6)  Ghost Orchid  (Dendrophylax lindenii)
Of all the rare plants listed the Ghost Orchid or Dendrophylax lindenii, may be the oddest addition to this list. With an inability to complete the photosynthesis process, and severe issues with propagation methods, it is amazing that this plant is still in existence. In fact, since its discovery there have been several periods where the Ghost Orchid was presumed to be extinct. However, the plant has a way of barely hanging and living another day.

Epipogium aphyllum (Ghost Orchid)

The Ghost Orchid requires a specific type of fungus to provide it with sustenance. Because of this relationship, the plant is only found in certain areas of Florida and Cuba. Found both underground and on cypress trees, the strange texture and eerie look of the plant provide ample reason for the haunting name. The flower's blooming season occurs between June and August. During this time, the Ghost Orchid emits fragrant scents. These scents are used to attract Giant Sphinx Moths the only known pollinators of this plant.

Ghost Orchids in the Wild:
Ghost Orchids in the Wild:
By Jeffalanhale via Wikimedia Commons

As for physical characteristics, the Ghost Orchid contains long flowing white leaf-like appendages that sit atop delicate stalks. These stalks are vital for latching on to nearby cypress trees, thus keeping the orchid off of the ground. When contracted and dormant, the Ghost Orchid can live underground for extended periods of time.


5)  Chocolate Cosmos  (Cosmos atrosanguineus)
Also referred to as the Cosmos atrosanguineus, the Chocolate Cosmos is an interesting and rare flower. This offering is no longer found in the natural world. Once, the plant was indigenous to many areas in Mexico. However, wild variations of the flower went extinct at the turn of the 20th century. Thankfully, the Chocolate Cosmos was preserved in captivity and saved from joining a long line of extinct flowers.

In captivity, the Chocolate Cosmos is cloned by way of vegetative propagation. The first successful attempt at this process occurred in 1902. From this point on, the species has been protected by the qualified and caring hands of many botanists. Without their hard work, the world would sorely miss this beautiful and rare flower.  Below is an image of this rare, but beautiful flower:

Chocolate Cosmos:
Chocolate Cosmos
By KENPEI, via Wikimedia Commons

The flowering leaves of the Chocolate Cosmos is a deep, dark red and maroon combination. The rings of petals can range from six to ten rows. During pollination periods, the flower emits a decadent scent that many have described as having elements of vanilla and cocoa beans. With such a sweet scent, the debate of naming the Chocolate Cosmos was surely a quick affair.


Franklin Tree Leaves:
Franklin tree leaves
By Derek Ramsey, via Wikimedia Commons

4)  Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)
As a member of the tea family the Franklin Tree has a unique and interesting history. The Franklinia alatamaha is the only known member of its genus. Few other plants can lay claim to such a distinction. Additionally, this flowering tree was only found in the Altamaha River Valley in the state of Georgia. Unfortunately, this rare and beautiful species is no longer found under natural circumstances. The only remaining specimens are found in various botanical gardens and reserves.

So what kept the Franklin Tree from entering the history books as an extinct species? One family can be thanked for their hard work and dedication to the preservation efforts of this plant. The Bartram family, a group of avid horticulturists, saved samples of the tree and artificially pollinated several specimens to ensure its survival. The lineage of the remaining trees all trace their roots to these protected samples. Without this foresight and successful work, the fate of the Franklin Tree would have been grim indeed.

As for physical beauty, few trees rival what the Franklin Tree has to offer. With long, pear-shaped green leaves, the tree has a distinct look that draws on its tea tree heritage. When in bloom, the plant grows large white bulbs. Upon the completion of the blossoming phase, these white bulbs open into rows of large white leaves which expose an attractive yellow core. This middle portion and its fragrant scent is used to entice various insects to the flower for pollination.

Franklin Tree in Bloom:
Franklinia alatamaha
By Francine Riez, via Wikimedia Commons


3)  Snowdonia Hawkweed  (Hieracium snowdoniense)

Snowdonia Hawkeed Plant:
Snowdonia Hawkweed

Anything with the word "weed" in its name should be fairly common, right? Well that is not exactly true when discussing the Snowdonia Hawkweed. This simple flower is relegated to existing in only one place on Earth. If you are ever traveling in the Welsh valley of Snowdonia, you may be lucky enough to come across this enigmatic plant if you keep a keen eye on your surroundings. The number of patches of the Snowdonia Hawkweed has fallen to as low as seven patches in this valley during the 20th and 21st centuries.

Initially, botanists claimed that the flower was extinct in the 1950s. For the next 52 years, this claim was assumed to be accurate. However, 2002 saw the plant rise again into the collective conscious of rare plant enthusiasts worldwide. From this point, extensive measures have been taken to ensure the continued survival of this incredibly rare flower. Conservation protocols and restrictions have helped preserve portions of the valley, all in an effort to promote the re-population of this plant.

Snowdonia Hawkweed Flowers Up Close:
Snowdonia Hawkweed Flower

When the Snowdonia Hawkweed blooms, it maintains characteristics of other weeds with which you may be familiar. Long light green sprouts end in dark green tones and a black bulb. When this bulb opens, simple yellow flowers ring a center section of pollen. Although this plant may look like your average garden weed, plucking it in the wild could have disastrous consequences.


2)  Black Bat Flower  (Tacca chantrieri)
With a name like the Black Bat Flower, it is safe to assume that the Tacca chantrieri is a unique species. Found only in the tropical forests of southern and central China, specifically in the Yunnan Province, the population of the Black Bat Flower can vary drastically. Although some offerings are currently available from commercial outlets, wild specimens of this plant have become increasingly rare due to the expansion and deforestation of the area. Without the proper precautions and conservation efforts, the wild population of Black Bat Flowers could face the threat of extinction.  Look at the image below and look at its complexity.

Black Bat Flower:
Bat wing flower

The flower takes on a very unique look. Atop a long stalk, which can grow up to a full meter in height, resides a flowering appendage. These flower petals take on a dark purple or black coloring, giving way to the naming conventions associated with the plant. From here, the blooms of the Black Bat Flower sprout "whiskers." these whiskers are long, thin strands that can grow to copious lengths and hang the full length of the stalk, touching the jungle floor.

If you are considering purchasing a Black Bat Flower that has been commercially grown and pollinated, keep in mind a few crucial requirements for a successful growth. Otherwise, you may find that your expensive and beautiful plant does not agree with its new habitat. This species prefers a tropical and humid environment. Additionally, light shade and moist soil are also agreeable to the Black Bat Flower.


1)  Middlemist Red  (Middlemist camellia)
Few flowers can compare to the rarity of the Middlemist Red or Middlemist's Red. Also known as the Middlemist camellia, this flower was once indigenous to several regions in China. However, time and the expansion of the industrial world have altered this plant to the point of a severe decline in its population. How severe is this decline? Only two are left in the entire world.  Below is an image of this extremely rare flower.

Middlemist or Middlemist's Red:
Middlemist or middlemist's red

Over 200 years ago, John Middlemist brought back a specimen from China to the United Kingdom. Today, the distant relatives of that Middlemist Reds live on in the Chadwick House in West London. The other sample of this rare plant is found in New Zealand. With only two plants left, much is being done to preserve and protect these flowers from a future in which no samples remain.

The dedication of these scientists and botanists is well worth the effort. With soft, circular petals and a gentle tint of pink and red, the Middlemist Red is a beautiful example of some of nature's finest work. As for the shape of the flower, the petals spring forth from a small center, creating a vibrant and thick blossom.


Conclusion
The world is full of beautiful and vibrant plants. However, the designation of rare falls only to those specimens which have faced unusual or intriguing circumstances. Often, these flowers have been on the brink of extinction, with only the efforts of skilled scientists and botanists pulling them back from the abyss.

While all of these plants come from scarce habitats and face uncertain futures, most also have intriguing histories and myths surrounding them. Some of these flowers trace their roots back to the myths and folklore of their respective regions. Others are firmly entrenched in the traditions of various cultures and faiths. Such ties add another level of mystery and excitement to these plants, thus creating enhanced enjoyment for those who are interested in researching their origins.


 

 

 

 

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