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Hydnora Africana

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Hydnora Africana

Hidden in the desert region of Southern Africa, you may mistake this flower for the head of a large snake peeking up from the ground. The Hydnora africana is a parasitic plant that exists almost entirely underground as a large web of roots connected to its host plant, Euphorbia. Said to be as hard as wood, it can take this plant up to a year to flower. Like lice or fleas, the Hydnora africana, spends the majority of its existence leaching off the Euphorbia plant. And after long periods of slow growth underground, this darling plant showcases the fruits of its labor with a fleshy salmon colored flower that surfaces from the ground. Emitting a striking aroma of feces, the flower is not so appealing to humans (for now at least), but is extremely alluring to dung and carrion beetles. And beyond pollinating it, these little critters actually play a crucial role in the blooming of the plant. When the flower emerges from the ground, those fleshy salmon petals attached at the top and the sides are connected by stingy fibers. Unable to resist the stench of the flower, the beetles push through the fibers, but then find themselves in a sticky situation. Inside of the Hydnora africana are small downward facing hairs that help trap the beetles inside of the flower. During their stay, the beetles feed and distribute pollen throughout the plant. And when the large bud fully opens the beetles are free to roam the earth once again, at least until they are lured in by another one of these desert flowers.


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