10 Fascinating Plants That Look Like Animals
There are an estimated 400,000 plant species growing on our planet, exhibiting a huge variation of colors and shapes. They range in size from microscopic algae that look like snowflakes to giant sequoia trees hundreds of feet tall. Some species have even evolved to look like an entirely different type of living creature altogether, whether as an adaptation that provides an evolutionary advantage or just as a happy quirk of nature. Either way, here's a selection of plants that we (and experts everywhere!) happen to think look a lot like animals.
Take, for instance, the monkey face orchid. Native to the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, this rare orchid flower, pictured here, bears an uncanny resemblance to a monkey's face. Its scientific name, Dracula simia, stems from the two long spurs that sprout from its blossoms like vampire fangs, while "simian" means monkey in Latin. Another is the dolphin succulent, which is a hybrid of a Candle Plant and a String-of-Pearls vine. The result is a plant that sprouts adorable leaves off its stems, and each leaf is shaped like a crescent moon with a "fin" protruding from it. Yet another favorite is the parrot flower. The Impatiens psittacina (or parrot flower as it's more casually known) was first discovered deep in the forests of Southeast Asia at the turn of the century. It's recognizable by the reddish-purple petals with a single apex; the flower's lower sepal makes up the beak, a small hook that is light green in color.
Ahead, more of our favorite blooms that look more like animals than flowers.
The Dracula simia
, which translates to "little dragon monkey" is found in tropical highland forests. While the center of the flower may be a dead ringer for our ancestral cousins, the name is a shout-out to the two long sepals (the part of a flower that encloses the developing bud) located at the base of the petals. Even better than its name or appearance might be the fragrance that is emitted from the monkey orchid. When this particular species of orchid blooms, it gives off a scent of ripe oranges.
The unique succulent Monilaria obconica is actually a hybrid of a candle plant and a string-of-pearls vine. The result is a plant that sprouts adorable leaves off its stems, and each leaf is shaped like a crescent moon with a "fin" protruding from it.
White Egret Orchids
If you thought egrets were graceful, just wait until you see Habenaria radiata
, or the "white egret flower." These delicate, white blooms were named after the bird. The fringed flower has petals that spread out like wings in flight, flanked by small green leaves. The resemblance is uncanny: Squint a little bit and you would swear you're looking at a swoop of cranes mid-flap.
, the resemblance to its flighty friend is undeniable. You'll know you've spotted a parrot flower when you notice reddish-purple petals with a single apex. The flower's lower sepal makes up the beak, a small hook that is light green in color.
The bee orchid—scientifically known as Ophrys apifera—is a sweet-smelling bloom with a clever little trick. The reason why it looks so much like a bumblebee is no delightful mistake. It actually helps the flower attract pollinators by bringing in male bees hoping to mate with the "bees" already on the flowers.
Flying Duck Orchids
Take a closer look, as this flower's natural mimicry is easy to miss. Hidden inside the bloom of the Peristeria elata, you'll find a structure that resembles a white dove in flight. At peak bloom, the bulb can grow between four and 20 petals, which surround a second, inner petal formation that gives this orchid its name.
These adorable plants—scientifically named Monilaria obconica—are native to South Africa, and they're described as drought-induced deciduous plants. When the succulents sprout, they grow two little stems that look just like a pair of rabbit ears, and as they grow, the "ears" get longer.
Grim Reaper Flower
For Aristolochia salvador platensis, these sinister floral features are key to the plant's survival: The cavernous "eyes" of the skull and powerful aroma combine to attract insect pollinators. Once drawn in, insects fly through these "eyes," which are lined with sticky hairs that help to cover them with pollen.
Also known as the green bird flower, the official name for this beautiful plant is Crotalaria cunninghamii, which can grow up to nine feet tall. Many associate the plant's unique flowers with the hummingbird, since they're shaped like one of the small birds in flight—there's even a beak-shaped stem at the flower's base. This plant grows wild throughout the northern half of Australia, according to the Australian Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority—they usually bloom between January and April.