Brain Cactus (Mammillaria elongata cristata)
Anyone can see why the mammillaria elongata cristata is also known as “Brain Cactus” – its dense oval stems closely resemble the squishy organ in our heads. Typically found in rocky outcrops of Central Mexico, the unusual plant thrives in the sun and never reaches heights above six inches. Yellow or brown spines cover the exterior, and it blossoms with flowers of the same color in the springtime. Brain cactus makes a popular houseplant, requiring little more than minimal water, porous soil with sufficient drainage, and lots of sunlight to survive. Display a Brain Cactus and you’ll be sure to grab the attention of curious house guests! Available on Etsy; $7.99.
The crested euphorbia is a freak of nature, because it’s technically two plants that have been joined together. Most of the time, a Euphorbia lactea is grafted onto the stem of another succulent, like a Euphorbia neriifolia. This unusual procedure creates a strangely pretty plant with a unique fan shape. Since Crested euphorbia is drought-tolerant and requires little water, home maintenance is relatively easy—as long as you don’t mind caring for a succulent that has undergone a surgical procedure! Available on Etsy; $14.99.
Shameplant (Mimosa Pudica)
Shameplant. Humble plant. Sensitive plant. There are plenty of nicknames for mimosa pudica, yet none adequately prepare you for the behavior that makes it such a creepy curiosity. Click here to see it in action: Upon being touched or shaken, the leaves of the plant immediately shrivel, as if the plant were dead and decaying. Wait a couple minutes, though, and the leaves return to normal, as if nothing ever happened. For success growing the tropical weed indoors, plant in loosely packed, well-draining soil, ideally in a spot that gets plenty of light and warmth year-round. If your local nursery doesn't carry it, fear not—seeds are readily available online. Available at Amazon; $3.65 for 100 seeds.
Black Bat Flowers (Tacca chantrieri)
No, there's no bat swooping out of this garden—only a bat flower, with its two largest petals closely resembling the plant's nocturnal namesake in flight. Dark purple and ruffled, the orchid variety blooms in tropical and semi-tropical climates and, fittingly, prefers the shade. If you're brave enough to take on this particular houseplant, you must be ready to repot it ever year, as it grows fast. Available on Amazon; $4.49 for 20 seeds.
Medusa's Head (Euphorbia flanaganii)
Evocative of the Greek mythological icon who had serpents for hair, simply the name on this hardy South African native sounds scary! Let run wild, though, Euphorbia flanaganii could indeed look more like a patch of snakes than a succulent—quite a surprise if you encounter it under the guise of night. Those gray-green, tentacle-like branches grow from its short, central caudex, winding in any which direction, until the plant spans up to 2 feet across. Available on Etsy; $15.00.
Charles Darwin once called this creepy carnivore "one of the most wonderful plants in the world," and there is an otherworldly beauty to its showy red and green foliage edged with teeth-like cilia. Contrary to its namesake, the Flytrap's favorite snack is spiders, followed by ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. The plant's hyper-sensitive traps can snap shut in a tenth of a second, so we're just glad they don't prefer people! Available on Amazon; $14.95 for three plants.
Monkey Cups (Nepenthe)
The lesser-known cousin of the Flytrap, Nepanthe owes its unusual nickname to the animals who drink rainwater from its bell-shaped blooms. The plants' traps produce a syrupy substance to drown their prey, and their slippery inner walls make escape nearly impossible. Monkey cups have a big appetite, and have been known to feast on animals as large as rats, lizards, and birds. Available on Amazon; $9.99.
Don't be deceived by its sweet appearance, the demure-looking oleander is downright deadly. The plant's fragrant blooms make it a favorite for gardens in subtropical locales. while its toxic leaves, flowers, and branches make it resistant to hungry deer. If you choose to cultivate oleander, you won't need to worry about pests but you'll need to keep the plant out of reach of small children and pets instead. Available on Amazon; $4.99.
Cobra plant (Darlingtonia californica)
There's a trick to growing the Cobra plant at home: Cold, purified water. Because this Pacific Northwest native grows in waters fed by cold mountain springs, it does best when its roots are kept cooler than the rest of the plant. For a refreshing treat on a hot day, there's nothing this carnivorous plant likes more than a couple ice cubes of purified water placed directly atop its soil. Well alright, then! Available on Amazon; $2.00 for 10 seeds.
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