Parrot Flower

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FW: Very Rare Parrot Flower

Parrot Flower
Netlore Archive: Circulating via email and social media, authentic pictures of the rare parrot flower (Impatiens psittacina), which is native to northern Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and northern India and bears a remarkable resemblance to its avian namesake. Unknown, circulating via email

Description: Viral images
Circulating since: 2006
Status: Authentic (see last page for details)

Text example:
Email contributed by Carol L., Aug. 23, 2006:

Subject: VERY RARE PARROT FLOWER

A FLOWER ALL THE WAY FROM THAILAND.
THE VERY RARE PARROT FLOWER

Thought this was too beautiful not to share.

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Image #2

Picture of rare parrot flower
Image source: Unknown, circulating via email
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Image #3

Photo of rare parrot flower
Image source: Unknown, circulating via email
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Image #4

Rare parrot flower
Image source: Unknown, circulating via email
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Image #5

Rare parrot flower
Image source: Unknown, circulating via email
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Analysis

Notwithstanding the eruption of a minor controversy over their authenticity when these photos first appeared on the Internet in 2006, they are quite real, as is the birdlike plant they depict, Impatiens psittacina, commonly known as a "parrot flower."

The species was first identified by British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1901, and it may well be Hooker's own description of it that appears in the Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information of the Royal Botanic Gardens published that year:

Impatiens psittacina. (B. M. t. 7809.) 8. A handsome species with axillary solitary flowers 2 in. long pendulous from an arching peduncle 1 in. long. Sepals green, standard pale rose-coloured, wings streaked with red, hooked spur white with an irregular dash of bright carmine towards the base. "The Cockatoo Balsam." Burma. (Kew.)

More images of parrot flowers can be viewed on the website of the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Thailand, and the illustration that accompanied J.D. Hooker's original description of Impatiens Psittacina in Curtis's Botanical Magazine in 1901 has been posted on the UBC Botanical Garden website.

Other flowers that resemble birds include Impatiens arguta and Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise).

(Thanks to Steve Lucas for alerting me to the authenticity of these photos.)

Sources and further reading:

Rare Thailand Parrot Flower Impatiens Psittacina
By Steve Lucas, The Exotic Rainforest

Parrot-Billed Impatiens
By Ray Morgan, The Plantsman, Royal Horticultural Society, June 2007

Botany Photo of the Day
UBC Botanical Garden, 27 January 2009

Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1901

Last updated: 11/21/12