Spooky Plants

Indian Pipe Plant
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), also known as the ghost plant. Credit: Randolph Femmer/NBII Image Gallery

Have you ever heard of white ghost or vampire plants? 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 even kind of spooky. 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.

Bandagers

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.

Chokers

Strangler Figs get their name because they actually choke the life out of their host. They are found in tropical rainforests around the world. 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.

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly nightshade plants, sometimes called devil’s berries, are named so because they are very toxic and deadly. The toxins from these plants can cause delirium and hallucinations. Their poison can also be fatal as it only takes consuming a few berries to kill a human. The berries from this plant were once used to make poison-tipped arrows.

Doll's Eyes

Doll's eyes plants are very unusual looking plants with berries that resemble eyeballs. While the entire plant is poisonous, eating berries from this plant could lead to cardiac arrest and death. Doll's eyes berries contain toxins that sedate cardiac muscles and can stop the heart. Birds however, are immune to the plant poisons.

Vampires
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.

Werewolf Plant

Wolfsbane, also known as devil's helmet, is an extremely toxic plant. Poisons from this plant at one time were used in hunting animals, including wolves. The toxins are quickly absorbed through the skin. Wolfsbane was also thought to ward off werewolves.

White Ghosts

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.