The 9 rarest plants in the world

Here are 9 of the most rare and threatened plants species  in the world today. These plants are found in some of the most inaccessible, remote corners of Earth. Each of these species is unique however, almost all of them are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Some reasons contributing to their status include habitat destruction, illegal collection, poaching and competition with invading species. The full article can be found here on the BBC website.

1. Attenborough’s Pitcher Plant

Attenborough's pitcher plant (Nepenthes attenboroughii) (Credit: Alastair Robinson)

Found at the summit of Mount Victoria in Palawan, Philippines, this pitcher plant is one of the biggest with pitchers up to 30cm in height. Pitcher plants are carnivorous, trapping animals in liquid-filled bowls, or pitchers. The Attenborough pitchers can trap insects and rats. This species was discovered in 2007 and is named after British natural history broadcaster David Attenborough. It is believed that there are only a few hundred individuals left.

2. The Suicide Palm

A suicide palm (Tahina spectabilis) (Credit: John Dransfield)

The suicide palm is found in north-west Madagascar. The suicide palm is enormous in size, reaching trunk heights of 18m and including fan that span up to 5m in width. The suicide palm lives for approximately 50 years, flowers once and dies soon after. This species was discovered by a cashew plantation manager in 2005 but a description wasn’t released until 2008. Only 90 individuals have been found in the wild.

3. Western Underground Orchid

Western underground orchid (Rhizanthella gardneri) (Credit: Andrew Brown)

This orchid spends its entire life underground in the Broom bush shrubland in western Australia. This species flowers underground and produces more than 100 reddish flowers with a strong fragrance. This plant takes nutrients from the roots of the Broom bush since it lacks chlorophyll. It is believed that there are less than 50 individuals existing.

4. Golf Ball

Golf ball (Mammillaria herrerae) (Credit: Petar43 / Wikimedia, CC by SA 4.0)

The golf ball is found in the mountains of Queretaro, Mexico. It is a small, white cactus that looks like a golf ball, hence the name. It produces pink flowers which cause it to be illegal collected by horticulturists. Therefore, the golf ball population has decreased more than 95% over 20 years.

5. Venda Cycad

Venda cycad (Encephalartos hirsutus) (Credit: Hannes Mostert)

The Venda cycad is found only in Limpopo, South Africa and was first described in 1996. The Venda cycad is hairy looking and is threatened by illegal collecting for ornamental purposes. Its population has been declining and it is suggested, by unconfirmed reports, to be extinct in the wild.

6. Jellyfish Tree

Jellyfish tree (Medusagyne oppositifolia) (Credit: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

The jellyfish tree is the only living member of the Medusagynaceae family, living on the island of Mahe in Seychelles. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 70s. There are roughly 86 mature jellyfish trees left in the wild, some of which no longer reproduce.

7. Poke-Me-Boy Tree

Poke-me-boy tree (Acacia anegadensis) (Credit: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

The poke-me-boy tree is a spiny shrub found on the islands of Anegada and Fallen Jerusalem in the British Virgin Islands. These trees are often swamped by rising sea levels due to the location of the islands the inhabit. The status of the wild population is unknown. To increase their chances of surviving, mature individuals are being cultivated.

8. Ascension Island Parsley Fern

Ascension Island parsley fern (Anogramma ascensionis) (Credit: Viswambharan Sarasan)

This fern species appears as a miniature parsley plant and is found on a volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean, known as Ascension island. It was thought that this fern was extinct until 2009, where individuals were found growing on a cliff face of Ascension’s Green Mountain in harsh and dry conditions. Researchers saved the few survivors by tending to them for weeks. They would scale the cliffs to water them and remove harmful weeds. As the plants begun to produce spores, small parts of the spore-forming parts were cut and sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, UK for propagation. The Ascension island parsley fern is extremely rare with only about 40 mature individuals in the wild.

9. Coral Tree

Coral tree (Erythrina schliebenii) (Credit: Costas Mligo, University of Dar es Salaam)

The coral tree has bright red flowers and a spiny trunk. It is found in remote forests of south-east Tanzania. The coral tree was extinct in 1998 but was rediscovered twice, once in 2001 and the second time in 2011. The forest was thought to be cleared for biofuels, along with the species. There are fewer than 50 individuals left in the world.

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