Plants are amazing organisms. They are able to create their own food through photosynthesis, and provide food for millions of other organisms. Plants may seem dull to some, but here are a few that I think are interesting and unusual. They are living proof that plants are not just boring old green things that grow in the ground. Let's start with a plant that has a built-in first aid kit.
Milkweed is so named because of the milky white juice that seeps out when the plant is broken off or cut. When the juice dries, it serves as a bandage covering the exposed area. The juice is also important because it acts as a poisonous deterrent to any insects that might try to feed on the plant. One exception is the Monarch butterfly which is immune to the effects of the poison. Milkweed plants are the only plants young Monarch caterpillars will eat.
Strangler Figs get their name because they actually choke the life out of their host. They grow from the top to the bottom of a tree with the help of animals. For example, a bird may drop a fig seed on the branch of a tree. Once the fig plant starts to grow, it sends its roots to the ground, which then anchor into the soil and completely surround the tree. Eventually, the host tree will die because it will no longer be able to get enough water or food.
Lichens are a symbiotic combination of green algae and fungus. They are unusual plants because they can grow on almost any surface. Lichens secrete acids that can break down rock into soil. They are also useful because they help filter the air of excess gases.
Dodder plants attach to their host and suck off food and water. Dodder seedlings send out stems that search for other plants. Once a host is found, the dodder will cling to and penetrate the stems of the host. It will then grow and remain attached to its victim. Dodders are considered harmful parasites because they often spread plant diseases.
Indian Pipes are tubular shaped plants with white flowers. The white color of the plant gives it a ghostly appearance. They grow in shaded places and receive all of their food from a fungus that lives in their roots.
More Unusual Plants
For information on some unusual plants that eat animals, take a look at the Carnivorous Plants page.