You look at this picture, and it is inevitable that you jump to countless conclusions. However, contrary to whatever it is that you may choose to believe, this is a plant. More specifically, it is the upper part of the flower of a plant.
Yes, we know: that’s not what a flower usually looks like. This, my friends, is Hydnora africana – the rebel amongst flowers.
Also called “Jackal Food”, Hydnora africana is a parastic plant that is often classified amongst the strangest plants in the world. And we can see why.
The family to which this plant belongs spends most of its life underground, deriving nutrients from the roots of host plants.
Hydnora africana are most commonly found in the coastal strip from South Africa to south-western Angola. The bright red/salmon colour of the flower’s insides serve the same purpose as normal flowers – that of “advertising” the plant. Other than that, the flowers hold no similarity to other flowers. The flower of this plant is characterised by three openings which, looked at from different angles, look like different things; I, for one, see a monster’s mouth.
The flower also smells pretty bad; it smells, in fact, of faeces. And although you may cringe, dung beetles would only be too happy to go cosying up to the flower. To each its own, I say. These beetles, once they push into the flower, are trapped. While trapped, they pick up or deposit pollen, and are only released once the flower opens fully. This way, these beetles help the plant reproduce.
The fruits of the Hydnora africana can measure up to 80mm across, and can contain nearly 20,000 seeds per fruit, and they apparently taste pretty good too. It is said to be part of traditional Khoi food, and is often thought to possess medicinal properties that help cure dysentery, kidney and bladder complaints, and acne.