Hydnora africana - giardinaggio.efiori.com

As far as plants go, scaly skin is never going to be an attractive look, but throw in some freaky looking teeth and you have the plants world's equivalent of a horror movie.

The star of this flick is the Hydnora africana, a plant native to southern Africa that is a parasite on the roots of plants of the Euphorbiaceae family. Like most fungus species, Hydnora africana spends its life growing underground. In fact the only time it makes itself known is when its fleshy flower emerges above ground and then everyone knows about it. Why? Because it emits a 'nose bending' odour of faeces from the ivory-coloured pad of tissue in the centre which is designed to attract its natural pollinators, namely dung beetles, and carrion beetles.

Hydnora africana
When the flower of Hydnora first opens, it has white threadlike structures that cross the gap between the "sepals." The openings between these threads are just large enough for a beetle to enter. However it has difficulty in finding its way out. This keeps the beetle inside the flower long enough so that the beetle can pick up pollen or deposit pollen on its surface onto the stigmas at the bottom of the floral tube.

The threads that cross the gaps between the "sepals" are pulled apart after a few days. Any beetles that entered the flower through those threads can now easily escape.

Strangely, the fleshy pulp-like flower can be eaten, which is often where all of the plant’s seeds are located. Presumably this is how the Hydnora disperses its seeds, from being eaten by browsing animal and deposited elsewhere when the animal defecates.

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