As we continue our countdown to Halloween with an exploration of “Spooky Nature”, this week we turn from creepy caterpillars to strange blooms. Come back next week for birds known more for being scary than beautiful…
Gardens are full of plants with names that sound a little scary (witch hazel and bleeding heart, for instance), but some plants go a bit further, with eerie and yet hauntingly beautiful appearances to match. Here are a few spooky plants to get you in the mood for Halloween!
The Ghost Orchid of the Florida swamps blooms only a few months each year, and enthusiasts don hip waders and head out into the swamps for a chance to glimpse (and smell) this delicate bloom – not an easy task, since the locations of most of the 2000 known plants are kept secret. The plant is extremely endangered and has long been the desire of collectors, leading to poaching (see the book The Orchid Thief) that threatens the continued existence of this spooky flower. No one better captures the eerie beauty of this iconic Florida epiphyte than world-famous photographer Clyde Butcher – click over to his gallery to see his work.
This member of the Lily family is known for its unusual black flowers, which to some people resemble a bat in flight. Other common names include Cat’s Whiskers and Devil Flower. This plant is native to a small area of China, and can be difficult to cultivate in the home garden, though you’ll sometimes see it for sale this time of year. Fascinatingly, some scientists believe that this plant may have cancer-fighting properties, and research is underway.
Here’s a spooky-looking plant you can grow in just about any garden. Seeds for this member of the Aster family are readily available, and it will likely overwinter in zones 8 and higher. This plant is also known as Toothache Plant, since chewing the leaves and flowers will cause temporary numbness in the mouth.
Revered by the Aztecs in its native south Mexico, the common name of this tree is certainly easy to understand! Devil’s Hand Tree can be grown in zones 9 and higher, and has been cultivated in gardens around the world. The flowers open in late spring and early summer, and are pollinated mainly by birds and bats.
Anyone familiar with the Greek myth of Medusa will immediately understand the common name of this orchid from Southeast Asia. Like many orchids, this one is suitable for growing indoors, though finding one for purchase may be somewhat difficult. While the name may be somewhat spooky, there’s certainly an eerie beauty to this plant that makes it perfect for this time of year.
There are so many more strange and creepy plants out there… which ones put you in the mood for Halloween? Tell us in the comments below!