Like most gardeners, your flower beds are filled with daisies and roses ... maybe an exotic lily or two. But the natural world is bursting with many types of unusual flowers. These are not your garden-variety flowers: giant-sized, bad-smelling or lethal to small insects, unusual flowers are often better viewed in someone else's garden.
A native of the rain forests of Indonesia, Rafflesia arnoldii is a five-petaled flower that can measure 3 feet across. A parasitic plant, Rafflesia arnoldii attaches to other plants to obtain water and nutrients.
After 30 to 80 years of growth, the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera) produces a 20-foot tall flower spike. This flower spike--known as a branched inflorescence--contains millions of tiny flowers, and after producing this spectacular display, the tree dies.
Amorphophallus titanum, better known as the corpse lily, is aptly named. Relying on carrion flies for pollination, this remarkable flower is also one of the world's largest. A native of Sumatra, the corpse lily has, according to the Library of Congress, "the largest unbranched inflorescence of all flowering plants. The plant can reach heights of 7 to 12 feet and weigh as much as 170 pounds." Unfortunately, it smells like decayed flesh and is often cared for by gardeners in gas masks.
Less exotic, skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum) is a common sight in moist, marshy areas of the US. Its bright yellow flowers and glossy green foliage smell noticeably "skunky" when crushed.
Harmless to humans but deadly to certain insects, carnivorous flowers attract and devour prey to obtain nutrients. The pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) lures prey into a funnel-shaped flower. The slippery, hair-covered interior of the flower prevents escape, and the insect dies and provides nutrition to the plant.
Sundews (Drosera) produce a flower-like stalk that is covered with gland-tipped hairs. Midges land on the stalk surface and stick to the fluid produced by the glands. Trapped, they die and are digested enzymatically.