Sean Cate
Sean Cate
April 30, 2024 ·  2 min read

Extraterrestrial-Looking Plant Only Emerges From The Soil To Flower

This plant, resident of southern Africa, only emerges from the soil to flower.

Hydnora Africana is a mysterious plant species that grows its flowers underground for most of its life, only emerging briefly when it rains. This parasitic plant is native to Southern Africa and is known for its bizarre appearance, which has led to comparisons with extraterrestrial lifeforms. Despite its otherworldly appearance, this plant plays an important role in its ecosystem and has been used by indigenous people for medicinal and culinary purposes.

A Strange Appearance

Hydnora Africana is a plant that is difficult to describe without using adjectives like “weird” or “alien.” The plant consists of a bulbous underground structure that is connected to a fleshy, tongue-like stalk. The stalk is adorned with small, hair-like structures that are used to detect the presence of nearby hosts. When a suitable host, such as the roots of a nearby shrub or tree, is detected, the plant will attach itself and begin to draw nutrients from the host1.

This plant’s most striking feature is its large, fleshy flower, which emerges from the ground to attract pollinators. The flower is a deep red color and is shaped like a wide-mouthed pitcher. Inside the flower, there are numerous spikes and hairs that trap insects, which then pollinate the plant as they struggle to escape.

Ecological Role

Despite its strange appearance, the plant plays an important role in the ecosystem where it grows. As a parasitic plant, it helps to regulate the growth of other plants by drawing nutrients from their roots. This can be beneficial in areas where certain plant species are overgrown or invasive.

Additionally, Hydnora Africana provides an important food source for animals in its ecosystem. The plant is known to attract a variety of insects, including beetles and flies, which are then eaten by other animals such as birds and mammals. The plant’s large, fleshy flower is also known to attract pollinators via a carrion-like stench2 which can help to increase biodiversity in the area.

Cultural Significance

Hydnora Africana has been proven to be useful as a plant for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The plant is believed to have medicinal properties that are useful in treating dysentery, diarrhea, kidney and bladder infections, and even acne. 

In addition to its medicinal uses, it is also used as a food source in some parts of Southern Africa.f The plant’s large, fleshy flower is said to have a sweet, fruity taste and is eaten by some people in the region. However, although calcified as fairly common vegetation, it is not often seen in the wild. If it is, you’ll most likely notice it being consumed by moles or jackals – which is where it earns the nickname “jackal fruit”3.

Hydnora Africana is a unique and fascinating plant species that continues to intrigue and inspire scientists and laypeople alike. While its otherworldly appearance may make it seem like a plant from outer space, it plays an important role in the ecosystem where it grows. Additionally, the plant’s cultural significance underscores its importance to the people who live alongside it.


  1. Hydnora africana.” PZA
  2. Tumblr
  3. Instagram. AMNH