Little Plant of Horrors

Looks familiar right? If it does not, you are probably a normal person. To me, this flower looks like the one in “Little Shop of Horrors”, just a little bit smaller, and a little less **SPOILER ALERT** carnivorous. The Hydnora africana, otherwise known as Jackal Food, is native to Africa, and is unique in that it is one of the few plants that does not photosynthesize. Instead, the jackal food gets its energy from host plants.

Photo Credit: IMDB

The jackal food spends most of its life underground, only emerging in optimal conditions at maturity. This plant grows on the root systems of other species, sucking out nutrients from the host, eliminating its need to get nutrients through the process of photosynthesis.

The colors of the flower are not typical of flowers. Most flowering plants utilize brightly colored petals to attract pollinators, and green colored leaves to best photosynthesize. Because this plant does not get energy from photosynthesis, it does not need to develop green leaves. Additionally, this plant does not need to attract typical pollinators.

Not that dissimilar to the corpse flower, the jackal food has evolved to emit a putrid odor in order to attract pollinating carrion insects. Instead of smelling like rotten meat, this species chooses to smell like feces. Once insects enter into the flower, they are trapped for a couple of days, the plants way to make sure that a suitable amount of pollen is picked up.

I wonder if the insects that are trapped in this plant are as terrified as I would be.

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