A Few Rare And Unusual Perennials

A perennial is a plant that lives longer than two years. Biennials are plants that live two years and annuals are plants that live a single year. Flowering perennials will bloom during a certain time of the year, die back and then, grow once again from the remaining root system. The sunflower is an extremely popular perennial, but there are many more rare and unusual perennials out there just waiting to be discovered. Here are just a few.

The Snowdrop

Close-up of white snowdrop against blue sky with cloudsGalanthus, which is referred to as the snowdrop, is a genus of flowers that includes around 20 different species of perennials. Many of these species are becoming endangered and as such are harder to come by. Collecting them in the wild has become illegal in many areas as they strive to undertake new conservation efforts before it is too late.

The snowdrop usually flowers in late winter, but there is a handful of species that will flower in spring as well as autumn. Aside from their flowering time, they are very similar in many ways. The visual differences between them sometimes only a matter of size.

All snowdrop species grow from a bulb that produces a stalk and several linear leaves. The flower of the snowdrop has no petals, but instead a series of six tepals in two layers. The flower is white and the tepals usually have green markings on their tips.

This perennial has appeared several times throughout history in popular literature. It is believed to be the mysterious herb known as moly in Homer’s Odyssey. There is also a well-known Russian fairy-tale called The Twelve Months that tells the story of a little girl who must collect snowdrops in the middle of winter.

The Toad Lily

The Interesting Bloom of a Unique Toad Lilly

Tricyrtis, or the toad lily as it is known in America, is a rare genus of Asian perennials that can be found growing near the Himalayas and other parts of eastern Asia as well as Japan. Toad lilies are widely sought after because of their unique appearance.

The tepals of the lily are arranged in two layers of six each. The tepals on the outside secrete nectar and are decorated with bright purple polka dots. Inner tepals usually have similar spots of a slightly different color.

Toad lilies prefer to grow near forests where they can spend their time in moist soil. They grow in areas where there is plenty of shade and will flower sometime between summer and fall. The lily is extremely tough and can survive drastic changes in weather.

Swamp Pink

 Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nieminen, Gene
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nieminen, Gene

Helonias bullata or swamp pink is an endangered perennial that grows in different locations throughout the eastern United States. The flower itself is rather small and they grow in clusters at the end of a long stem that can grow up to 3 feet tall. The majority of remaining swamp pinks are grown in New Jersey, but six other states have small populations of the plants.

The swamp pink blooms early in the year and is very noticeable. This has lead to increase poaching of the plant over the last few decades, which has further decreased their numbers. They survive best in their natural environments where the soil is highly saturated with water. Many of the plants do not survive the move to a new location.

Despite the flower itself being rather small, the roots are large and extensive. Poachers who are unaware of how large the roots can grow are often unable to keep the plant alive in a stable environment.

Some efforts are being taken to preserve the remaining swamp pink population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have started a volunteer program labeled “Adopt-a-Swamp-Pink Population”.

Should you encounter one of these rare perennials in the wild you should take the time to stop and enjoy its beauty, but do not try to remove it from its natural habitat.

Unusual Vegetables That You May Not Have Ever Heard Of

While there are literally hundreds of different types of vegetables eaten around the world, most of us limit ourselves to just a few when we are preparing meals. We eat potatoes, corn, and tomatoes on a regular basis, and when we are feeling really adventurous, we might branch out and have some okra or Brussels sprouts.

However, there are many unusual vegetables out there that you might never have heard of. Some of these you may be able to find at your local grocery store, while others may not be available in your area. Take a look at this list of some of these unique plants and see if any of these sound appealing.

Oca

Cross sections of pink oca new zealand yams aerial shotEven though this root vegetable is native to South America, it is commonly referred to as the “New Zealand yam.” However, it is neither a yam nor native to that island country. The oca was introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century and quickly became quite popular. It is also widely cultivated in its native continent, where it is second to the potato.

The oca is a colorful tuber that contains high levels of potassium, iron, and vitamin C. It can be grown in a number of varieties that have different flavors and textures. They tend to have a tangier and sweeter flavor than the potato, and some even resemble fruit.

Kohlrabi

Fresh kohlrabi on the wooden table closeupThe cabbage family contains a wide range of different vegetables, all descended from the same wild ancestor. In addition to cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and others, the kohlrabi is a less-well-known variety. It resembles a green turnip, but all parts of the vegetable are edible, including the leaves, the stems, and the root itself.

This vegetable is not as hard to find in the United States as some others, but it still not widely eaten in the West. It is one of the most popular vegetables in India, where it is consumed in a wide variety of dishes. It can be eaten cooked or raw, depending on your preference.

Celeriac

Heap of small fresh celeriacs with stems at a farmers market.As its name suggests, celeriac is related to celery. While most people only eat the stems of celery, celeriac is cultivated instead for its roots. It is high in fiber and low in starch, making it an excellent alternative to the potato in many dishes.

Celeriac is commonly used in many European countries, but is much less popular in the United States. Like kohlrabi, it can be eaten raw or cooked, and makes an excellent addition to many soups, stews, and salads. The leaves and stems can also be eaten or used as a garnish.

Samphire

Samphire a coastal herb also known as sea beans glasswort pickleweed or SalicorniaThe next time that you go to the beach, keep your eye out for this edible plant that grows near the coast. Also known as “sea asparagus,” its common name comes from a corruption of “Saint Pierre,” the patron saint of fishermen. Few other vegetables are able to grow on rocky coasts where the sea constantly lashes the land.

Samphire is often pickled, but it can also be used as an addition to salads. Because of its origins, it is also commonly used to complement fish or seafood dishes.

Cassava

Close up of tapioca Plants Cassava in farmIn many parts of the world, this vegetable is far from unusual. In fact, it provides a significant amount of carbohydrates for half a billion people worldwide, primarily in tropical regions. Its starchy root, also known as manioc, is used in a similar fashion to the potato.

However, cassava is rarely found in more temperate climates. It needs to be prepared with care, as its flesh can contain toxins. Before eating, it must be properly cooked to eliminate these substances.

Three Weird And Exotic Fruits From Around The World

Everyone is familiar with the apple, banana, and orange, but what about the pomelo, rambutan, and cherimoya? These are three weird and exotic fruits from around the world. They aren’t commonly seen in America but are staples in many diets in various parts of Asia, Central America, and South America.

The Rambutan

RambutanPerhaps one of the weirdest looking plants on the planet, the rambutan is a tropical fruit grown primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia. Its name comes from a word in the local language that translates to hair. It earned this name because it is covered in a large number of soft spikes that resemble a head of hair.

This fruit has spread throughout many parts of Asia, Africa and even, Central America. There are also a small number of rambutan plants growing in India. Some determined gardeners have even managed to grow these fruit trees in America. They grow best in climates that stay between 71 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Red rambutan in ceramic bowl still life image dark tone.

The fruit is usually red on the outside. Once the leathery skin is peeled away the white, egg-shaped core remains. In terms of taste, it is often compared to a grape. The fruit features a pleasant combination of sweet and sour.

Rambutan is widely regarded for its many health benefits. It is high in iron content as well as manganese, calcium, and Vitamin C. It also has useful antioxidant properties.

The Pomelo

Two Pomelos,half With Drops Water And Leaf Isolated On WhiteScientifically known as Citrus maxima, the pomelo is the largest citrus fruit in the world. It greatly resembles a large grapefruit in some ways, which is thought to be a hybrid of the pomelo and the orange. It is slightly larger and much sweeter than the grapefruit. It can grow anywhere between 6 and 10 inches in diameter.

This fruit was originally grown in Southeast Asia. It is often covered in salt and eaten raw in those areas. It’s also a popular staple of many salads, drinks, and desserts.

Though it looks similar to a grapefruit, it is not nearly as bitter as its relative. However, the internal membrane that surrounds the segments can be pretty bitter and is rarely eaten. The skin is often used in various recipes as well, including marmalade and candies.

The fruit has since been introduced to various other parts of the world. It is thought to have traveled to Japan around 1772. It was brought to Jamaica nearly a century prior to that.

The Cherimoya

Fresh Green and Brown Ripe CherimoyaNative to South America, the cherimoya is an exotic fruit that Mark Twain claimed to be the most delicious fruit on the planet. It is also widely known as the custard apple because of the creamy flesh of the fruit.

This fruit can grow in differing shapes. They are usually oval and slightly stretched near the ends. They can grow between 4 and 8 inches long with a diameter between 2 and 4 inches. The skin is green and tubercular when ripened. On the inside are several large, brown seeds.

Cherimoya fruit or custard apple at the market in Xiamen China.

It is the taste that makes the cherimoya such a beloved fruit. It is described as a blend of several different fruits packed into one. The combined fruits being pineapple, strawberry, peach, banana, and papaya. Anyone who loves those fruits is sure to love the cherimoya.

Many people leave the fruit in the freezer overnight and then eat it the following day with a spoon. The cherimoya is sometimes called the ice cream fruit because of this. It is also a part of many different ice cream flavors as well as yogurts, especially in Peru.

The world is full of weird and exotic fruits. Fruits that are large and small, sour and sweet, are all waiting to make their way into your diet. If you have the green thumb and the right climate you could even try bringing them into your garden.

Carnivorous Plants That Will Amaze You

Plants rely on photosynthesis to get their energy. Most of them absorb nutrients from the Earth. However, there are some plants that absorb most of their nutrients from other life forms. These are known as carnivorous plants or insectivorous plants.

Carnivorous plants use some type of trapping mechanism, such as a rolled leaf, a stick surface or rapid leaf movement to attract and trap insects. They then rely on digestive enzymes and bacteria to break down the plant and absorb its nutrients. Here are a few of the most interesting carnivorous plants from around the world.

Nepenthes Rajah

color big jungle pitcher plant (Nepenthes Rajah) The Nepenthes rajah(N. rajah), sometimes called the “Giant Pitcher Plant,” is a species of Nepenthes that grows only in Sabah, Malaysia. It is so large that is known to some as the king of Nepenthes plants.

The Nepenthes genus of plants are pitcher plants that trap their prey in large rolled leaves and then digest them using a combination of enzymes and bacteria. The Rajah species of Nepenthes is classified as endangered but has managed to increase in numbers over the past few years.

The N. rajah features a very large urn-shaped trap. Its trap can grow as high as 16 inches tall and 8 inches wide. Their traps can store more than 3 liters of water and 2.5 liters of digestive fluid, which makes them the largest of the Nepenthes genus in terms of sheer volume.

What really makes the N. rajah stand out from the rest is the fact they sometimes consume small mammals and other vertebrates, such as birds and frogs. The only other Nepenthes species documented digesting a mammal is the Nepenthes rafflesiana. The N. rafflesiana can grow nearly the same size as its rajah counterpart.

Venus Flytrap

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula) With Trapped FlyEasily the most popular carnivorous plant, the venus flytrap is a carnivore that you can easily grow in your own home. It feeds entirely on insects and small spiders. Unlike the Nepenthes, which use a pitcher trap, the Venus flytrap uses rapid leaf movements to actually catch its prey with its large mouth-shaped trap.

The flytrap features a very complex mechanism for catching its prey. In order for the trap to close, a movement must occur along the trap. The insect will move and contact a hair and then contact a second hair, which then causes the trap to close. The trap will not close if it does not contact the second hair within a certain time period. This prevents the trap from needlessly wasting energy attempting to catch prey they cannot consume.

Several flytraps can grow together from the same plant. If more than seven are growing together, then it is referred to as a colony. This usually occurs when their rosettes divide under the ground’s surface.

The “teeth” of the trap create a protective barrier that prevents large insects from escaping. Small insects can still escape because their nutritional value is likely not enough to warrant the use of energy it would require to digest them. If the insect moves around within the trap it will tighten and digest faster. If the insect escapes, then the trap will reopen in several hours.

Drosera

Sundew (Drosera) lives on swamps insects sticky leaves.Also known as sundews, the drosera is another carnivorous genus of plants that digest small insects for nutritional value. They do not rely on leaf movement or pitcher traps. Instead, their surface is covered in many small mucilaginous glands. The glands excrete mucilage that look much like morning dew, hence the name “sundews.”

Some sundew plants can live to be as old as 50 years old. They are known to grow on every continent on the planet aside from Antarctica. Some species have become so dependent on consuming plant life that they no longer poses the enzymes required to take in nitrates from the Earth’s surface.