Flowers are odd as it is. The more you learn about them, the more you realize how little you really know about these beauties. Some are beautiful, some fragrant, some colorful, some poisonous, some mind-altering, some mysterious and some downright odd. These five floral families contain thousands of flowers within them and for some, the range of inter-differences between their various genera are what make them odd, while others are odd for the characteristics that their genera exhibit.
Orchids, as we commonly know them are some of the unusual beautiful flowers in the world of flora. They are arguably the most diverse family of flowers and fall within the top two most populous families of flowers. Containing over 28,000 species and hundreds of genera, they are more diverse than all species of birds and mammals put together. But what makes them really peculiar is the odd methods they employ to pollinate and reproduce. As most plants, orchids usually rely on insects and small animals to pollinate and spread their seed. But orchids are notorious for using unconventional methods to do so, or so it seems to humans. The reason we make that distinction is that a lot of orchids have such unique appearances that appeal to humans a lot more than they would to insects. For example, there are species of orchids that look like swaddled babies, dancing girls, naked men, tigers, monkeys among others. Perhaps, orchids have adapted to using humans as pollinators along with insects, as it is obvious that orchids are in high demand among collectors and gardeners for their strange flowers.
A family known for its peculiar inflorescence, these are very popular flowers as far as ornamentation in gardens is considered. They are commonly seen in botanical gardens. The inflorescence is expressed in a large spadix which is a sort of bulbous structure containing several tiny flowers on it. This Spadix is almost always surrounded by a large modified leaf called a spathe. The spathes are usually mistaken for being a part of the flower because of their beautiful appearance, although all the flowers on the Spadix are tightly clustered and too small to distinguish as separate flowers. This family of flowers is also known to be toxic as they contain a poisonous chemical called calcium oxalate. Consumption of any part of many of these plants can lead to severe consequences including hospitalization. Some of the biggest flowers known as the corpse lily are part of this family. The corpse lily is also notable because of its rotting flesh smell that attracts its favorite pollinators, carrion insects. Other types of Araceae worth mentioning here are the peace lily, the cuckoo pint, and the Arisaema triphyllum.
The Solanaceae is perhaps the one family of plants that we are most aware of as we use a lot of its species in our day to day activities. Also known as nightshades, these are economically very significant and are used as spices, medication, food, weeds, ornamentation and in sacred rituals across the globe. This is a significantly diverse family as far as usage is concerned. Agricultural crop such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants or aubergines, capsicum all are fruits from plants that fall into this category. On the other hand, flowers of this family are commonly used as ornamentation like the Datura, Angel’s trumpet, Petunia, and Browallia. The flowers of this family are also known to carry alkaloids which can be extremely poisonous. The Devil’s Trumpet, Mandragora and Deadly Nightshade all sprout on plants of this family. As far as the economy is concerned, other than the agricultural crops obviously, one of the biggest contributors is tobacco, which is also part of this particular family.
The lily family has some very peculiar mutations that have occurred over time to its changing environments. Lilies are so diverse that for a time many flowers that were not technically lilies were termed as lilies because their genera had not been classified yet. The reason this happened was that at the time, any plant with six petals and a pronounced ovary was considered to be a Lily which later was found not to be the case. Even today many flowers are called lilies colloquially when they are not in the Liliaceae family. Mainly used for ornamentation these flowers are known for their beautiful and varying colors and fragrances. Tulips, which belong to this family of flowers, were so popular in Western Europe in the 17th century that they were used as currency. The value of Tulips at that time was higher than gold in Netherlands and people were clambering to get a hold of tulip bulbs, so much so that the time is remembered as “Tulip Mania” in history. Lilies have also been a powerful source of inspiration for many artists. Tulips and lilies have also been used as a food source throughout the ages but tend to be highly poisonous to animals. Even humans on consumption of a heavy amount of these flowers can have health problems as they contain certain poisonous alkaloids.
Odd-even within the odd floral families, this group of plants is carnivorous. Yes, that’s right. They like eating meat such as insects and small rodents even in some cases. The reason they evolved to be carnivorous is because they grow in places that are poor in nutrients such as Nitrogen and Potassium. They make up for this deficiency by trapping insects and small rodents in their leaves that are specifically designed for this purpose. They have tiny hairs on the insides of these leaves that detect motion. The leaves themselves are shaped like a mouth that remains open and as soon as the hairs detect motion, they close instantaneously like an elephant trap. To reduce the redundancy of trapping non-essential things, the leaves will close once two hairs have been touched by a foreign object and will only start digestion after a few seconds to make sure it is, in fact, nutrient-rich food. Venus flytraps are the most recognizable of the plants in this family and produce beautiful white flowers every year. However, because the flowers take up nutrients in an already nutrient-poor environment, humans that cultivate these beauties usually cut the flowers once they grow to a certain height. This actually helps the plants to grow larger and with more vitality, which in itself is an odd phenomenon.