Some of the world's most extraordinary flowers are, by their very nature, also the most elusive. While some are only found in hard to reach pockets of habitat, others are endangered species and others bloom so rarely the chance to see them comes around just once in a lifetime. |
Here are four of the most beautiful rare flowers that are native to different parts of the world.
The exquisite Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) gets its name from its uniquely shaped translucent white petals, which take on a ghostly appearance when it sways at night. It's a very discerning plant in terms of where it grows, requiring a specific kind of tree upon which it attaches to the bark. Even after that, conditions need to be absolutely perfect to produce the seeds (with high temperatures and humidity), and those seeds will not germinate without the presence of a particular fungi.
One of the most endangered of all the world's extant rare flowers, the Ghost Orchid is only found in Florida and Cuba and blooms for a period of just three weeks, between the months of April and August. Another unique feature is that it has no leaves, making it extremely difficult to spot. It's estimated there are fewer than 2,000 of these orchids growing in Florida.
Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers
Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers (Cypripedium calceolus) are such a rare native of the UK, it's believed there is just one site in the north of the country where the plants are growing wild in a top secret location. (The site is under police protection.) They are also native to other areas of continental Europe and parts of Asia, but are notoriously difficult to find growing wild.
A member of the orchid family, while it's not uncommon to find yellow lady slippers, the combination of yellow and purple is very seldom encountered. The delicate blooms are mostly yellow but with the bottom quarter a deep, royal purple. As well as being very difficult to find, this is also one of the most expensive rare flowers in the world and takes more than five years to grow to maturity.
According to Buddhist scripture the Youtan Poulo (no scientific name) only blooms once every 3,000 years, which is said to coincide with the reincarnation of Buddha. It can be found growing in Taiwan, Korea and rural China and its modest appearance belies its botanical importance.
Very small and with multiple tiny white flowers (just 1mm) coming off a main stem, the Youtan Poulo has a delicate fragrance of sandalwood. The most high-profile site it has been found growing wild was in Seoul, at the Chonggye-sa Temple - attached to a statue of Buddha.
The Chocolate Cosmos
One of the most delicious sounding rare flowers is now, sadly, generally considered to be extinct in the wild. The Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) is an orchid native to Mexico and gets its name from the wonderful aroma that emanates as it blooms, which only occurs on warm summer evenings.
Deep reddish-brown with a yellow-hued centre, today there is thought to be just one chocolate cosmos in existence, which is a scientific clone created in 1902 using vegetative propagation. The chance of seeing one of these rare flowers in the wild in Mexico is highly unlikely, but despite that, the species comes under lawful protection.
Nature has produced more than 270,000 species of flowers, some of which are already extinct and others that now only exist in a cultivated environment. But whether it's through the experience of travelling abroad on professional flower tours or visiting botanical parks and gardens closer to home, the opportunity to encounter such rare and exotic species is both a thrill and a privilege.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in wildflowers. As a passionate lover of botany, Marissa chooses the expert-led flower tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable encounters with a wide range of rare flowers and plant species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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