Perhaps the most famous strange plant is the Venus fly trap, from the Carolinas, which tricks insects into flying into its leaves, which it then digests. From the same area, there’s also the trumpet pitcher, which similarly tricks insects into going inside its trumpet to look for nectar, but again traps them inside and digests them. Finally, there’s the very pretty but dangerous water hemlock, whose roots are filled with poison, only a little of which can trigger Grand Mal seizures and death.
Although one would not usually recognize aspen trees as a strange tree, but given the characteristics of aspens, they are quite bizarre. Aspen trees grow in large plumes and are interconnected through root systems and a unique set of shared genes, making them one of the most massive living organisms. Pando, a series of aspens in Utah made up of some 47,000 trees, covering 106 acres.
I’ll add the water hemlock to the list, as it is extremely toxic and lethal despite its innocuous appearance. Per the USDA, it is considered “the most violently toxic plant in North America.” Although the flowers and stems are safe, “the stalky roots contain chambers that are full of a deadly sap containing the convulsant cicutoxin. Grand mal seizures are followed by a quick death if even a tiny amount is consumed.”
Similar to the Venus fly trap, the waterwheel plant is a carnivorous plant that traps its prey. Their leaves are arranged in a way that gives it a wheel-like appearance, hence its name. It also has no roots and floats around freely underwater.
I think creosote bushes are quite odd. Not only do they thrive in Death Valley (where you can expect temperatures above 90 F from March to October and average annual rainfall is around 3 inches), but are also some of the oldest living organisms around. Dr. Frank C. Vasek, a professor at UC Riverside, has radiocarbon dated the age of one organism in the Mojave to be approximately 11,700 years old.
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