Exotic plants are sometimes defined as plants that are "non-native" to a particular area. These "exotic" plants are usually invasive weeds, such as Japanese kudzu. For most people, however, the word "exotic" infers rarity. These plants can be difficult to find, extraordinary in looks or both. Often, they are also difficult to grow, but well worth the effort.
King Protea (Proteaceae)
The King Protea is the national flower of South Africa. When in full bloom, the flowers (including the colored, pointed bracts) have a diameter of one foot across. These flowers are often dried or used in a dramatic display of cut flowers. There are 81 varieties of the plant, most of which feature flowers that are pink or red, although a few varieties are yellow. The plant, which is classified as a woody shrub, has stiff, oval leaves which absorb the water in the ocean air of its natural environment.
Conch Apple (Passiflora maliformis)
Passiflora maliformis is commonly called sweet calabash or conch apple for its fruit. It is a perennial vine that is native to parts of northern South America. The flowers have a strong, pleasing fragrance, and are uniquely beautiful, with each one having a white center surrounded by a large, purple corona. The fruit has a very hard shell that is light yellow.
Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri)
Also called cat's whiskers or devil flower, this perennial tropical plant is native to East Asia. The bat flower has long, slender leaves that can grow up to two feet long. The flowers are a dark maroon or purple color framed by equally dark bracts that are similar to the appearance of bats' wings. Long "whiskers" extend from the bracts and trail down the stem.
Rare Variegated Raphis Palm
The variegated Raphis palm is exotic because it is the only palm that has variegated leaves (different colored markings on the leaves). Nicknamed the "lady palm" these graceful plants are slow-growing but live a very long time. The leaves are long and oval shaped, with dark or light green stripes down the middle of the leaves. Some varieties have several stripes, while others have just one stripe.