It’s too bad that as of writing, travelling abroad still isn’t possible. Thus, there’s no exploring other cultures, visiting landmarks, and even discovering plants endemic to specific countries.
Scratch that—it isn’t the 1900s! We’re in the 21st century and living in the age of information, where anything and everything to know is accessible through a few taps and clicks. Thus, even with the border restrictions, it’s actually still possible to see the world, maybe not physically, but at least within the comforts and safety of your own home.
For this month’s blog, let’s get out and about online and see five interesting blooms and shrubs from all over the world!
Though the rafflesia is widely known for being the hugest flower, it’s also notorious for its putrid smell that’s akin to rotting meat. There are different Rafflesia species, but most notable is Rafflesia arnoldii, which is the largest of them all. It is named after Sir Stamford Raffles, who ran the expedition, and his associate, Dr James Arnold. This specie was found by a Malay servant in May 1956 in Sumatra, Indonesia. Today, it is one of the country’s national flowers.
Unlike most flowering plants, rafflesias have neither roots nor stems. Thus, it needs a host plant, specifically a Tetrastigma vine, to thrive.
Heading to the north of Indonesia is The Philippines, where we can find the most apprehensive plant of them all. It is what natives call makahiya (Mimosa pudica), which directly translates to “shame,” describing the plant’s seemingly embarrassed reaction as it curls its leaves upon being touched.
Not fascinating enough? Biologists from Italy and Australia have studied the leaf’s defence mechanism in controlled settings and found that despite the lack of a brain and an entire nervous system, the touch-me-not plant may be capable of learning.
Moreover, the plant is used for many purposes in different countries where it can be found. For instance, Filipinos use it as a diuretic, Chinese for anxiety and depression, and Indians as birth control.
3. VENUS FLYTRAP
If you grew up playing Plants vs. Zombies, then you’re probably familiar with Chomper, the zombie-eating plant with a slobbery behaviour comparable to that of a dog. Well, Chomper isn’t just a figment of the creators’ imaginative minds. It’s based on the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), a carnivorous plant that is totally non-fictional.
It is native to regions in North and South Carolina lacking in nitrogen and phosphorus, two of the three minerals essential to the development of plants. Thus, the venus flytrap relies on insects’ nitrogen-rich proteins for sustenance.
Its trapping mechanism is triggered when any of its hairs get stimulated, after which the plant just snaps shut, leaving the poor prey to die slowly as the venus flytrap’s digestive juices break down its body over 10 days.
Along with Mimosa pudica, the venus flytrap is among the few plants that can rapidly move.
Sounds familiar? You might’ve been reminded of the loofah, the product that most of us use for exfoliation. Would you be surprised if we tell you that you can simply grow your own bath sponge in your garden instead of getting them from the store? You read that correctly! Your bath sponge comes from a luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca), a member of the cucumber family.
Make the most out of the hot weather, as luffas need a minimum of six hours of sunlight for proper development. Though it takes a relatively long time to grow compared to other gourds, it serves multiple purposes in its different stages of development. For instance, research has shown that its seeds can
reduce glucose levels in rats, it’s edible when young, and when matured and dried, it serves as the famous loofah that we’ve all come to love.
Our last plant for this list is the welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis). Though its diet may not consist of live insects, nor can we use it for achieving smooth skin, carbon dating indicates that it lives for as long as 2000 years! That’s a lot in contrast to the venus flytrap that dies after having eaten four insects.
Otherwise known as tweeblaarkanniedood, the plant is endemic to the deserts of Namibia and Angola. It looks very droopy as though run over by a dozen trucks, but what can we say? We can only imagine what it must be like to live in the desert for not just one but about 10-20 centuries.
Just like the rafflesia, welwitschia also derives its name from its discoverer, Friedrich Welwitsch.