5 of the Rarest Flowers Known to Science

The endangered ghost orchid is native to Cuba, the Bahamas and southwest Florida. Mick Fournier [CC BY 2.5]/Wikimedia Commons

Even if you are not a flower enthusiast, you can most likely rattle off names of some spring flowers: roses, tulips, lilies, daisies. But even the most avid gardeners may not know about these, five of the world’s most rare flowers. With stunning blooms and fascinating histories, these plants are not ones you’re likely to see after the April showers bring May flowers.

1. Nepenthes tenax: Found in Northern Queensland, Australia, this pitcher plant is from a species of tropical flesh eaters. In fact, botanical archeologists have witnessed it consuming mice, rats and small lizards. Nepenthes tenax, discovered in Cape York, can grow up to 100 centimeters (40 inches), with vines growing to more than 25 cm (10 inches) high.

kadupul flower
The kadupul flower is also known as the night-blooming Cereus. Hiveen kemsara [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons

2. Kadupul flower: Native to Sri Lanka, these oddly scented, delicate white flowers also are known as night-blooming Cereus because they only bloom at night and wither before dawn. The Kadupul are meaningful to followers of Buddhism, as it is believed that when the flowers bloom, the Nagas (semi-mythical Sri Lankan tribes) descend from their celestial abodes and present the flowers as an offering to Buddha. The stunning flower known as Kadupul is thought by followers of Buddhism to be an offering for Buddha after it blooms.

3. Middlemist’s red camellia: This lush red flower was brought from China to the U.K. more than 200 years ago, and, though it survived during bombings in World War II, it is considered extinct in the wild. The only other variety of the camellia — named for the London gardener who collected it in 1804 — is found in New Zealand. The flower blooms a deep pink for about a month in the spring. The Middlemist and several other rare camellias are housed in a restored conservatory in Britain.

Franklinia alatamaha, at UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver
This is a Franklinia alatamaha at UBC Botanical Garden in British Columbia. Wendy Cutler from Vancouver, Canada [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons

4. Franklinia Alatamaha: Known as the Franklin tree, named for Ben Franklin, this white and orange flower was discovered in the Alatamaha River valley in Georgia in the late 1700s. It has been extinct in the wild since the early 1800s and, though the cause is unknown, botanists and other scientists often cite fire, overcollection by plant collectors or fungal disease. All the current Franklin trees are descended from the seeds collected from the gardener John Bartram, who first discovered it, and live in Philadelphia in Bartram’s Garden. The flowers bloom at the end of the summer.

5. American ghost orchid: This protected species of orchid, which you can see at the top of this file, grows primarily in Cuba and some areas of south Florida and is named for its hard-to-see roots that attach the flower to the cypress trees on which it lives. Since the roots blend in with the surroundings, the flowers seem to float like ghosts. These orchids are so rare because they can only be pollinated by one creature, the giant sphinx moth, and can only grow if their seeds land on a tree trunk covered in a specific type of moss. When the seeds of the orchid, which is considered endangered in the wild, do find a home, the flowers can bloom up to 10 at a time in the summer, before they lie dormant for several years.