Rare flowers, from underground “orchids” to minute flowers that bloom every 3,000 years, are also some of the weirdest and mist interesting!
And you may never even hear of them. For example, do you know corpse flower, jade vine, ghost orchid, Gibraltar campion or chocolate cosmos? These are beautiful and sometimes exotic looking flowers, but what they share is the fact that there are simply very few about in the whole world.
There are 3,654 registered endangered plant species around the world, but some have become well known among experts for their beauty and rarity. They often come from exotic places, like smoking corpse lily or delicate and limited environments, like Franklin tee flower. But there are also some that horticulturalists bred, rare cultivars that are hard to find.
If you are curious to read about and see what these rare flowers from all over the world, this is the right place. The rarest flowers in the world are in fact the protagonists of this article. And you will be amazed to know that you may even grow some. So, let’s start!
But why are they so rare, you may ask? We’ll find out straight away…
Why Some Flowers Are So Rare?
The question is, how come some flowers are very common and others are rare? There may be a few reasons. And here they are:
20 Rare Flowers From Around The World
Of the thousands of beautiful or strange rare flowers, 20 stand out. Some are very unusual, others cost literally a fortune, and some are so rare that there are a few plants left in the world!
Here are the 20 rarest exotic flowers you’ve never heard of.
1. Red Indian Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora)
Indian pipe, or ghost plant is a flower from a parallel universe. It is totally white, with translucent stems and bell shaped flowers. Yes, it looks a bit like a ghost pipe planted in the soil…
It is weird because it has no chlorophyll. It is one of the few plants that do not have a photosynthesis process.
“So how does it eat,” you may ask? It is a parasite and it uses a series of fungi and mycorrhizae to derive energy from the roots of trees. It is usually white, but sometimes it is pink and, very rarely, it can even be red.
It only comes out like mushrooms, when it rains after a period of dry weather. It is actually native of many parts of the world, from Asia to America.
However, it only grows in some spots within these areas. While the white variety is more unknown and unusual than rare, the red variant is really rare (and spooky) indeed!
2. Titan Arum (Amorphophallus Titanum)
Titan arum or corpse flower is a celebrity among rare flowers. Seeing one live is an unforgettable experience.
Towering over you at about 12 feet in height, with its strange deep red and frilled spathe surrounding a colossal spadix… It just takes your breath away.
The plant itself will leave its few, large and oval shaped green leaves as the only sign of its existence for years.
Then, suddenly, this colossal flower will come out of the soil and attract pollinators from miles away.
This usually happens once every 7 to 10 years! It is a great protagonist of the history of botany and it is in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest flower on Earth! The heaviest titan arum on record weighed a whopping 339 lb. (153.9 Kg).
Not your average flower to bring to a romantic meeting then…
3. Youtan Poluo (Uncertain Scientific Name)
From large to small and possibly to the rarest flower on the planet: youtan poluo or udambara. Never heard of it? And you most likely have never even see it. And for two good reasons…
First it is only one millimeter across as a flower (0.04 inches)… It is white and it grows on a spiderweb thin stalk…
They are so tiny that they are easily confused for small insects, like aphids.
Second it blooms very, very rarely… How “often”? Allegedly only once every – hold fast – 3,000 years!
It is a protagonist of Buddhist and Indian traditions too. It is believed to bloom only at the birth of a king and it is a focusing flower. Despite being small, it has a distinctive sandalwood smell…
It is so rare that still there are disagreements on its scientific name, maybe Ficus glomerata or even Ficus racemosa.
4. Western Underground Orchid (Rhizanthella Gardneri)
Rare and absurdly strange, western underground orchid is a flower that, as the name suggests, never sees the light of the Sun. Yes, you guessed, it always stays underground!
It is actually very beautiful though. It produces petal shaped pink bracts which hold loads of small bright red flowers inside. Up to 100 indeed. It looks a bit like an open pomegranate shaped into a flower.
It does not have leaves and it has only been discovered fairly recently (well, it was 1928). Unfortunately, it was already late, and this plant is now at serious risk of extinction…
A rarely seen flower we should try to protect!
5. Jade Vine (Strongylodon Macrobotrys)
Jade vine, a.k.a. emerald vine is another very weird and rare flowering plant. It is a woody vine from the the Philippines with long stems and large, elliptical dark leaves… But the flowers… They are just out of this world!
They come in big drooping clusters and they look a bit like claws, or the beaks of parrots. And that’s not all that makes them unusual… Their color is very striking. On the blue to turquoise shade, it is very ethereal and otherworldly, almost ghost like.
6. Gibraltar Campion (Silene Tomentosa)
Gibraltar campion may not look striking or exotic, but it is very rare indeed. The fact that it comes fromGibraltar should give away the reason…
“The Rock” as the Brits like to call it is a very small place and this flower has a tiny natural environment.
It has five white to pink violet split petals, and it looks similar to much more common members of the same genus, like the very common Silene latifoliayou can find in most temperate prairies, white campion.
Gibraltar campion, on the other hand, was thought to be extinct till 1992, when we found out it was still alive.
7. Sea Daffodil (Pancratium Maritimum)
Sea daffodil is wonder of Mediterranean beaches, but a rare one at that. It has beautiful white flowers with shorter petals at the front and then long and thin white petals that curve back at the back of the flower…
Like a white Sun with long rays. It grows straight out of the sand in clumps during the summer season, which makes it quite unusual too.
But this amazing flower has a problem: tourism. Its natural habitat, beaches, has become the favorite haunt of tourists all over the world juts during its blooming season.
Nowadays they are trying to protect it all over this historical sea…
8. Shenzen Nongke Orchid (Gloriosa Rothschildiana ‘Shenzen Nongke’)
This orchid of the Gloriosa genus may be rare, but it is also very famous. And the reasons for its rarity are not as sad as other flowers we have seen…
It has green to yellow petals with a bright magenta labellum (central petal). And it may look like any ordinary orchid. But this cultivar developed in China is very rare and sought after, and it only blooms once every 4 or 5 years.
It is so precious in fact that someone paid the eye watering sum of $290,000 for a single flower in 2005!!!
9. Parrot’s Beak (Lotus Berthelotii)
Parrot’s beak is a rare and well named flower. In fact, the flowers look like flaming parrot beaks pointing up from the crawling branches of this plant.
They come in fairly large groups and they can be flaming red or bright yellow. This makes them a great spectacle with excellent gardening value.
The foliage is needle shaped and beautiful in color, with a silver blue shade. It is original of the Canary Island, and it has only been saved from extinction thanks to private collections.
One day, if things go well, you may even be able to adorn your own garden with these beauties.
10. Cooke’s Kokio (Kokia Cookei)
Cooke’s kokio is a rare Hawaiian flowering plant with a weird look. In fact, the leaves are pretty, large and similar to that if ivy, fine, but the flowers…
They large deep crimson red and they look like two cocker spaniel’s ears with a long plume in the middle.
They were only discovered in the 19th Century as part of an unlucky genus.
In fact, all the species of the Kokia genus are either endangered or now fully extinct. And it is difficult to save them because these are very hard plants to grow…
11. Black Bat Flower (Tacca Chantrieri)
Flowers can hardy get any stranger than the rare black bat flower. The name says it all… it looks like a weird bat, even like an alien being, with wide dark wings and long filaments radiating from the middle.
And then there are little “eyes” or “tony heads on long necks” that come towards you from the middle of this very unusual composition.
You would be forgiven if you thought you were before a tropical animal on seeing it.
However, the chances are that you will actually see k e unless you visit some tropical garden with unusual plants.
12. Middlemist’s Red Camellia (Camellia ‘Middlemist’s Red’)
Camellias are not usually rare, because we love to grow them in gardens all over the world. They mix the “Japanese look” with the temperate shady corner look.
This variety is wonderful. It has bright crimson to ruby red large flowers with very regularly arranged pointed petals.
But even if it is strikingly beautiful, you will not find it in many garden like most other camellias. That’s sad, yes, but ‘Middlemist’s Red’ camellia is so rare that there are only two plants existing in the whole world! One in New Zealand and one in England, while it is extinct in its native China.
Most scientists believe Camellia japonica, or Middlemist’s red is actually the rarest flower in the world.
13. Franklin Tea Flower (Frankliana Alatamaha)
Franklin tea flower is a rare and beautiful plant. It has large elliptical shapes that are green most of the year and they turn ruby red as the season progresses. On them, you will find beautiful cup shaped white flowers with golden yellow centers.
It is called “tea flower” because it is actually related to the tea you drink. But you will be hard pressed to find it in tea bags or as loose leaf, as it is really rare. Actually, it does not even exist any more in the wild, only in gardens.
14. Gold Of Kinabalu, A.K.A. Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum Rothschildianium)
Another orchid makes the top 20 of the rarest flowers in the world, gold of Kinabalu, or Rothschild’s slipper orchid.
It looks like many slipper orchids of the Paphiopedilum genus, with a protruding purple labellum and petals with yellow green and purple stripes.
But this plant has very marked and bright colors and it only grows on mountains, above 500 meters (1640 feet).
It is so rare that it is fenced off in the woods of Asia where it grows and a single flower will sell for $5,000 on the black market (its sale is illegal, of course).
15. Pokemeboy (Vachellia Anegadensis)
Pokemeboy or poke-me-boy tree is another rare and endangered flowering plant. It is a beautiful tree with very decorative pinnate leaves, like locust trees. But the flowers are very interesting too. They look like bright yellow pompoms and they appear directly on the branches.
While you would not think that this tree is in danger looking at it, unfortunately it is.
The habitat it comes from, in the British Virgin Islands is slowly but steadily disappearing. It wants tropical shrub land to live, and there isn’t much of it left around…
16. Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus (Epiphyllum Oxypetalum)
Dutchman’s pipe cactus, or queen of the night is one of the “orchid cactus” flowers, and it is the rarest of all them.
It has long trailing stems that produce amazing and exotic large white flowers. These have a cup of two rows of petals in the center and then back petals that form like a crown around it.
The flowers can reach 12 inches (30 cm) across and this plant is very rare in its natural habitat. So, in the last it scored a word record as the most expensive flower ever.
But this is a happy story, because we found out that it’s easy to cultivate, and now there are many of them in gardens and pots all over the world.
17. Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos Astrosanguoneus)
Chocolate cosmos is rare, totally extinct in Mexico; it is beautiful but it is not brown. In fact, it does not take its name from the beautiful dolor of its petals. These are of the deepest and velvety dark red.
So, why “chocolate”? Because it smells like it!
Its aroma though makes it unusual, but not rare. Its flowers do not produce seeds, so it cannot reproduce sexually and it is totally extinct in the wild.
However, horticulturalists, botanists and gardeners are keeping it alive by root division.
18. Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax Lindenii)
Yet another orchid in the list of rare and beautiful plants: ghost orchid now! Aptly named, this plant has white to pale green flowers that look like ghosts, those “made of bedsheets” sort of visitors from the spiritual world.
The labellum in fact grows downward and forward with two side wings and a waving shape… Like a ghost (or a bed sheet) in the breeze…
The problem with ghost orchid is that it is almost impossible to propagate. It also has very little photosynthesis, not enough to produce its own food. It looks ethereal and it is ethereal as metabolism too.
19. Vulcan’s Trumpet (Brugmansia Vulcanicola)
Actually Vulcan’s trumpet is not even this rare plant’s common name. It has none, and I have creatively translated the scientific name. And it’s a real pity because it is very beautiful.
It produces long and showy trumpet shaped flowers that start purple near the petiole, then turn red and orange as you get to the tips of the flower.
And inside, they are bright yellow! The color spectrum is just fantastic!Each flower can reach 9 inches in length, which is 22 cm,
They would look great in a garden and that, unfortunately, is the only place where you can find one… In fact, they are totally extinct in Nature… Yes, they are that beautiful and st the same time that rare!
20. Stinking Corpse Lily (Rafflesia Arnoldii)
Stinking corpse lily is massive, rare, unusual and – you guessed – it stinks to high heavens!
Possibly the smelliest flower in the whole world, it will not please your nose with delicate scents… No, it will attack it with an overwhelming stench of rotting flesh!
The massive flowers grow straight out of the ground and they are red, round and huge, up to 4 feet wide (120 cm).
They are parasites and they have no leaves; they grow attached to the roots of trees and, once in a while, they attract flies from literally miles away with their rotting smell and showy presence to pollinate.
Rare and Beautiful Flowers
From orchids that live underground to flowers that look like bats or even alien creatures, rare flowers are some of the most beautiful and original around. Though maybe the rarest if all is our classical looking red camellia.
Some are rare because their habitat is disappearing. Some are rare because they do not reproduce well. Some are now totally extinct in the wild. Some you cam grow, some you really cannot.
But one thing is sure: looking at all these magnificent flowers that are disappearing, you must agree that it is really worthwhile making an effort to try to preserve them!
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Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.