For amateur botanists, professional small group tours specifically focused on flora are a wonderful way of gaining exposure to a vast range of species in their natural habitat. While rare and exotic species get a lot of attention, when it comes to floral blooms, Mother Nature proves that they don't always have to be hard to find in order to display some very unusual characteristics. |
These five flowers are all very different, but they all have their own unique behaviour or appearances.
The snapdragon genus (Antirrhinum) is so called due to its resemblance to the head of a dragon. But the similarity doesn't stop with its outward appearance; if the flower is squeezed the dragon looks like it is opening its mouth in a roar and, once the flower is spent, the seedpod it leaves behind looks remarkably like a skull.
While some cultures believe that the snapdragon has restorative properties if consumed, others believe it has supernatural powers or is cursed by witchcraft.
This clever little South African succulent is able to take on the appearance of pebbles and rocks in order to hide from predators who want to eat it. Part of the Aizoaceae family, its name translates to "stone face" – for obvious reasons. Growing very close to the ground, the majority of the plant's leaves are buried beneath the soil, but the top ones include a translucent outside layer to let them absorb the light required for photosynthesis. During extended periods of inclement weather, the plant is able to embed itself into the earth for protection.
The Common Sundew
Common by name but not by nature, the flowers of this small carnivorous plant (Drosera rotundifolia) comprise gland-topped hairs in place of petals. The unusual spiky appearance of the red and yellow blooms looks like a firework, and each gland is filled with a sticky, sweet substance that is irresistible to insects when the sun catches its shine. Once the insect lands on the flower it becomes stuck, its body is dissolved by enzymes and the nutrients are extracted and absorbed. Like other carnivorous plants, the behaviour of subsisting on insects has evolved in response to a nutrient-poor environment.
The Corpse Flower
The Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum) is so called for its putrid aroma, which is likened to that of decaying flesh. The scent is designed to attract flies and other insects in order to carry out the pollination process. But, while that dubious honour is perhaps what it is best known for, it's also a fascinating and unique flower for a couple of other reasons. The species holds the distinction of producing the largest bloom in the world (up to three feet wide and 10 feet high), but the downside is that it blooms very rarely – once every seven to 10 years, or even less.
The Bat Face Cuphea
It's no secret how the striking Bat Face Cuphea (Cuphea llavea) earned its name, with the deep purple and black centre of its flowers resembling the face of an aggressive-looking bat. Native to Mexico, the shrub produces copious amounts of the small flowers, which feature a tubular red bloom topped off with twin bright red vertical petals (the ears) set around the bat face centre. It's not just botanists who find this unusual flower so attractive and it's renowned for being a favourite of hummingbirds.
The Beauty of Small Group Tours for Nature Lovers
Whether it's to far off, exotic destinations in Asia or Australia, or closer to home in the UK and Europe, small group tours with a focus on flowers afford participants the opportunity to travel with like-minded people and enjoy the expertise and knowledge of trained naturalist or botanist guides.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in wildflowers and bird watching. As a passionate lover of birds, Marissa chooses the expert-led small group tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of flora and fauna in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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