by Kirsten Howard
There are an estimated 400,000 types of flowering plant species in the world, and new species are discovered every day. But some species are far rarer than others, either due to their specialized growing needs or threats to their habitats (often both). Here are nine flowers that each grow in a relatively limited location, and are usually only glimpsed outside of that place with the help of botanists or special exotic gardens.
1. KOKIA COOKEI
The deciduous tree known as the Kokia cookei (pictured above) is one of the rarest plant species in the world. When it was first discovered in the 1860s, only three trees were known to exist in the world, and those were all found in the lowlands of the western Moloka’I island of the Hawaiian Islands. The flower only lives on today due to grafts with other plants.
2. SILENE TOMENTOSA
The Gibraltar Campion is very rare. Growing up to a foot high, the pink, white, or pale violet flowers are found only in Gibraltar. It was thought to be extinct until 1994, when some specimens were discovered at the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in Gibraltar. For now, that is the only place to see them in the wild, although you can also see the cultivated plants at the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens.
3. STRONGYLODON MACROBOTRYS
, or jade vine as it is more commonly known, is a species of woody vine festooned with blue-green flowers that can only be found in the tropical forests of the Philippines (primarily on Luzon, Mindoro, and Catanduanes Islands). The destruction of rainforests has threatened its habitat, although the botanists at Kew Gardens in England have had success growing the plant.
4. AMORPHOPHALLUS TITANUM
US Botanic Garden via Wikimedia //Public Domain
A plant you may be familiar with, the “Corpse Flower” blooms every 2-10 years and, when it does, emits an unpleasant odor not unlike that of a rotting animal. The flower is native only to the rainforests of western Sumatra.
5. CALOCHORTUS CERNUUS
A species of plant in the lily family, this flower can only be found in the hills surrounding Tepoztlan, in the state of Morelos, Mexico. It can grow over a foot tall, and the dark brown and purple flowers hang from the very top.
6. CLIANTHUS PUNICEUS
is native to New Zealand, and often referred to as “parrot’s beak” or “lobster claw” because of the distinctive shape of its showy red flowers. But it is highly endangered: Only 200 plants are known to exist, scattered around New Zealand's North Island. Today, your best chance of seeing them is in Te Urewera National Park.
7. GENOPLESIUM PLUMOSUM
A species of orchid known only to a few sites in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, Genoplesium plumosum (more commonly known as the Tallong midge-orchid) tends to be difficult to find even in the small region where it grows because it only flowers for about a month, in late summer or autumn. In 2008 there were estimated to be only around 250 plants left, due in part due to the introduction of the European rabbit to the area. You may still be able to see a few plants at Morton National Park, however.
8. ERICA ABIETINA
9. RAFFLESIA LEONARDI
A parasitic plant endemic to the northern areas of the Philippines, Rafflesia leonardi was only discovered in 2005, in the northeastern region of the island of Luzon. Also called the “corpse flower” (yes, more than one flower goes by that name) because of the stink it gives off to attract pollinators, it has become a major tourist attraction and symbol of conservation for the area. It is part of the same genus as Rafflesia arnoldii, the largest flower in the world. Yet another species in the genus, Rafflesia philippensis, grows only on a single mountain in the Philippines—Mt. Banahaw.