Throughout the world, there are plant specimens that are not beautiful by conventional standards, yet hold a certain fascination for their unusual appearance and attributes. They may be odd looking to some, yet appreciated by others as ornamentals for just that reason. Nature is filled with examples of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
Griffith's cobra lily (Arisaema griffithii) is a native perennial of India, one among several species of the Araceae family. It has two large, dark green leaves with prominent veins on the underside, and a spathe (sheath) of up to 8 inches. The cobra lily is a carnivorous plant that attracts its insect prey with fragrance inside the leaf opening, leading them through a slippery tube structure and ultimately into a pool of liquid digestive acids from which there is no escape. This plant prefers bright light and humidity, and ideally, living moss. Its natural habitat is swampy areas, so to grow the cobra lily successfully in a pot, it is important to simulate its natural growing conditions. Keep its roots cool and generously watered, preferably with a daily dose of distilled or rain water, bearing in mind that in the wild, this plant has access to water from mountain streams. Since the cobra lily can grow to a height of about 4 feet, plant it in a large pot that can accommodate its extensive network of roots. The ideal temperature range for cobra lilies is between 70 and 80 degrees F, although this hardy plant can withstand temperature from freezing to 100 degrees F. In 2007, India honored the cobra lily with a commemorative stamp issue.
The vegetable sheep (Raoulia eximia) is native to New Zealand where it grows at high alpine altitudes. As its common name suggests, this evergreen shrub has the look of a sheep. Its small, hairy leaves surround the white and yellow, summer-blooming flower heads, and together they form tightly bunched mounds that grow to be about 2 feet high and about 5 feet wide. This plant prefers partial shade to full sun and normal to moist soil. The vegetable sheep is a member of the Asteraceae family.
The walking palm (Socratea durissima) is native to the forests of Costa Rica. It is unusual for its ability to move to a different location of its own volition. Unlike conventional palms, this species builds and extends a peculiar, tent-like formation of prominent branch roots above ground as it moves in search of better nutrients or light and abandons its previous location. The Socratea exorrhiza species is also called walking or stilt palm and is native to central America and the Amazon rain forest. Grown in an ornamental pot, the walking palm sometimes sends roots beyond the container. The walking palm prefers full sun to partial shade and moist soil. At maturity, it can reach about 65 feet.