18 October 2019
Plants that look like something else
Take a look at these surprising plants that look uncannily like other things, from animals to human body features.
Naked man orchid (Orchis italica)
No prizes for guessing the reason behind this orchid species' common name.
Native to the Mediterranean, its cluster of violet flowers look like cute little human figures – though not completely naked. These characters also appear to be wearing helmets, which are formed from the sepals and petals.
Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera)
The flowers of the Ophrys apifera mimic the appearance of a bee. The large lip resembles the main body of the flying insect, while two inner tepals look like antennae.
But the similarity is not always coincidental. Natural selection has favoured some Ophrys species that resemble their insect pollinators as their appearance cleverly boosts their pollination.
Several species within the Dracula genus of orchids resemble a monkey face, including Dracula simia and Dracula benedictii (no vampires here).
White egret flower (Habenaria radiata)
Pretty and dainty, this beautiful orchid is the spitting image of a flying egret, the elegant bird with white plumage and a long neck.
In the desert region of our Princess of Wales Conservatory you'll come across some wriggly-looking cacti.
The species Cleistocactus samaipatanus and X Cleistopsis are so snake-like they appear to be squirming out of the ground.
Hot lips (Psychotria elata)
Pucker up! Psychotria elata is a tropical plant with a very distinctive feature.
Its bracts (the modified leaves that are often different from foliage leaves) are bright red and look like a pair of puckered human lips.
Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
Grown in the Temperate House, the striking inflorescence (flowering head) of Strelitzia reginae resembles the crest on an exotic bird's head.
Kew's first unofficial director, Sir Joseph Banks, named the species in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She lived at Kew for many years.
Living stones (Lithops)
Which one's a stone and which one's a plant? It's hard to tell when looking at succulents within the Lithops genus.
Our selection in the Princess of Wales Conservatory show how uncanny the similarity is between these 'living stones' and actual stones.
Red pagoda (Crassula capitella)
As its name reflects, the red pagoda succulent plant looks like a colourful tiered tower.
How much do you think this species, native to South Africa, looks like our very own Chinese-style Great Pagoda here at Kew?
White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)
Some may find the fruit of the white baneberry slightly creepy.
The round white berries with black 'pupils' on red stalks give the species its other common name; doll's eyes.
Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
Like a big pin cushion, the golden barrel cactus' yellow spines look like pins stuck into the barrel-shaped stem of the plant.
Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)
The native range of Lamprocapnos spectabilis is central and north China to Korea.
Its pretty hanging flowers are distinctively heart-shaped. But at least they look like the symbolic romantic kind rather than the human anatomy kind.