Image credit

Orchids are one of the most beautiful, complex, diversified, and unrivaled flowering plants in the world. Orchids are perennial plants and are generally terrestrial, meaning, in their natural habitat, these plants attach themselves to the surface of other plants or the bark of trees. In simple terms, they grow on other plants or trees rather than being rooted in soil.

These flowers can adapt to different environments, and hence they are diversified to different regions all around the world. Orchids can be found in the arctic tundra, the equatorial tropics, and everywhere in between the two. Different varieties thrive in different growing conditions and finding one that suits the condition that you can provide is easy. Every species of the orchid flower are unique, but some of them stand out from the crowd so well that they are worth the mention. Here are some of the unusual orchids that you must know about.

The Monkey Faced Orchid

Also called Dracula Simia, these orchids are found in high mountains of southeastern Ecuador and Peru. They are popular because they have a distinctive monkey or baboon face on the surface. Different flowers depict different expressions, from thoughtful, happy to even sad. They are rare, and a favorite among collectors.

There are nearly 120 species of Dracula orchids with a monkey face, but Dracula Simia and Dracula Gigas are the most popular ones. These orchids smell like ripe oranges when they blossom. It is hard to grow them in captivity as they need a lot of attention with cool temperatures and partial shade.

The Monkey Orchid

The orchis Simia is another species of the orchid flower that looks like a monkey. These orchids were also popularly known as the ‘naked hanging man’ as these flowers show the body of a man or a cute little monkey hanging from the flower.  These unusual orchids were discovered in France in 1779. They can be found in several different colors that include grey, white, pink, purple, and red. They are mostly found anywhere between southern England to northern Africa, and even as far as Iran. These flowers were one among the common orchids until 1920 after which they became harder to find.

The Moth Orchid

Also known as the bird’s head orchid, the moth orchid is found in Asia, the Philippines, and northern Australia. When viewed from a distance, multiple flowers look like a group of moths flying. Take a closer look and they look like a bird’s head. There are over 60 species of the moth orchid, and several artificial hybrids have been cultivated from these species. It is one of the most popular unusual orchids as it can be easily cultivated at home. All you need is repotting skills, fertilizers, consistent moisturizer, and a bright windowsill. While most of the species can bloom all year round, some species need to experience certain weather conditions to bloom.

The Fly Orchid

The fly orchids look a bit like flies, and you wouldn’t pick it at first glance. These flowers are native to Europe and commonly found from Ireland to Spain to Romania and Ukraine. These flowers not only look like a fly, but they also depend on wasps, bees, and flies for pollination. They use a scent to attract male insects, a scent that reminds the insects of food or a female insect. The male insect tries to mate with the flower, feels disappointed due to lack of nectar and procreation, and flies to another flower, unwittingly pollinating it.

The Bee Orchid

The bee orchids are similar to the fly orchids. These flowers attract male bees the same way as the fly orchids do. These flowers visually mimic the female bees and also emit the scent of female bees that attract the male for pollination. These species are commonly found in the Mediterranean region, and the UK, Northern Ireland, and Scotland as well. The hybrids of this species attract bumblebees or yellow bees, and some do not need insects for pollination at all.

The Flying Duck Orchid

Like the bee orchid and the fly orchid, the flying duck orchid also practices pseudocopulation. They attract male sawflies visually as well with scent for pollination. When the fly lands on the flower, it gets trapped. The only way out of the trap is an exit where the fly gets covered with pollen. The first species were found in the Sydney Opera House in 1803. As their root system requires vegetative fungi that are found typically in the wild, these flowers could not be cultivated. The flying duck orchids are found in eastern and southern Australia, anywhere between Queensland to South Australia and Tasmania.

The White Egret Orchid

Also known as the fringed orchids, or crane orchids, the white egret orchid is found in China, Japan, Korea, and Russia. These unusual orchids are popularly called Sagico in Japan. These flowers are about 4cms wide, and a stalk can hold up to 8 flowers. They require a lot of attention to be grown in captivity and can be found in some private gardens of orchid collectors and protected Japanese bogs. Due to habitat destruction, these flowers are becoming one among the endangered species.

The Cockleshell Orchid

The cockleshell orchid is also called the clamshell orchid. They have pseudobulbs from which the flower blooms. These pseudobulbs look like hoods growing from the plant. These flowers are native to Central America,  southern Florida, Colombia, Venezuela, and the West Indies. They are the national flower of Belize and are popularly known as the black orchid there. These flowers are easy to take care of and hence are commonly cultivated at home.

Image credit

The Dove Orchid

Popularly known as the holy ghost orchid, the dove orchid is the national flower of Panama. It is found anywhere from Central America to Ecuador and Venezuela. It is one among the most unusual orchids not only for how it looks but for how it smells as well. These orchids have the scent of beer. The flowers grow from the ground or on tree trunks, but in humid mountain forests. Unfortunately, they are one among the long list of endangered orchid species.

The Tulip Orchid

The cradle orchid, and the boat orchid are some of the names given to the tulip orchid. These flowers grow up to 10cms wide and have a fragrance of cinnamon or mint. They are usually found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, but at an elevation of 1400m to 2500m. They are unique and are called cradle orchids as these flowers look like they are cradling a baby.

The Western Underground Orchid

It is one of the extremely rare and unusually unique orchids in the world. These flowers spend their entire life underground. These unusual orchids bloom below the dirt and have no green part, such as a stem or even leaves. They do not photosynthesize, and instead, they get the required nutrients from fungi that grow on the roots of the broom bush. Unfortunately, the western underground orchid is one of the critically endangered species of orchids.

The Hawaiian Bog Orchid

They are the rarest species of orchids that are native to Hawaii. At first glance, the orchids don’t look like flowers at all. They look like green buds with a serpent’s mouth on top. The existence of these flowers is threatened by habitat destruction by humans, as well as by invasive non-native species of plants that grow around. Conservationists have been growing its seedlings and replanting them, hoping that one day they can repopulate these beautiful species of orchids.

The Zeuxine Rolfiana

The Zeuxine Rolfiana is the rarest and one of the smallest species of orchids in the world. These species were only known from records as old as 121 years old until 2010 when they were found in Kerala, India. They belong to the terrestrial orchid subfamily and their description is still vague as are the rarest species with only 18 flowers found. With no signs of whether the plants will reproduce, it is one among the most unusual orchids.

The Gold of Kinabalu Orchid

Also called Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid, the Gold of Kinabalu Orchid is one of the critically endangered orchid species in the world. These flowers grow only on Mount Kinabalu in northern Borneo, Malaysia. Unfortunately, its popularity among collectors has threatened its status. These flowers can fetch up to $5000 in the black market as they are rarely cultivated and those available come from the wild population. The Urban’s Paphiopedilum, Liem’s Paphiopedilum, Sang’s Paphiopedilum, Fairrie’s Paphiopedilum are some of the species of the orchid that are unique and beautiful like the Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid. These orchids are critically endangered as well. There are several other species of orchids that are unique and deserve to be a part of the long list of unusual orchids. They include the ballerina orchid, the swaddled baby orchid, the tiger face orchid, the angel orchid, the hammer orchid, Brassia Arcuigera, Bulbophyllum frostii, among others. With more than thirty thousand different species and two hundred thousand hybrids, the orchid is the largest family of flowering plants on earth. Every species and every hybrid flowering plant is unique and deserves to be a part of the list of unusual orchids.