A world without flowers would be dull, wouldn't it? We see flowers often, stubbornly blooming on a sidewalk or flourishing in a summer garden. But there are a wide variety of rare flowers you wouldn't probably see except if you looked for them. And you may have to go to the literal ends of the Earth. In this article, we explore some remarkable rare flowers from all over the world.
We can consider flowers close to extinction and not commonly found in the wild to be rare. Some rare flowers bloom once every few years, while others bloom for only a few hours. Some rare flowers can only grow in specific parts of the world. There are even flowering plants that we don't find outside special laboratories because cultivating them requires scientific expertise.
Here are some of the most beautiful rare flowers.
The beautiful Jade vine has claw-shaped petals that have an exotic turquoise hue. The flowers grow in tresses that are usually more than 3 feet long. Some other names for this plant are jade climber, emerald creeper, and emerald or turquoise vines.
The Jade vine plant is part of the bean family and is native to the Philippines. The creeper plant grows in the wild along streams or ravines. This rare flower blooms between April and May. Bats are the primary pollinators of the Jade vine; they are drawn in by the luminous quality of the flowers in the dark10.
We currently regard the jade vine as an endangered species as their natural habitats face deforestation and degradation. As a result, they have become more difficult to find in the wild and may be close to extinction. The plant only grows in the Philippines, but if you live in a subtropical climate, you could try growing it in a greenhouse.
Quick fact: did you know that the rarest flower color is blue?
Scientists agree that the Rafflesia arnoldii is the world's largest individual flower bloom. It can grow to about 3 feet in diameter. With its blood-red dotted petals, this flower is a stunning beauty. Ironically this beautiful flower gives off a smell like that of rotting flesh, which has earned it the moniker corpse flower.
Never mind how offensive the smell is; it is the only way the flower can attract pollinators. Rafflesia flowers are either female or male, and pollination only occurs when male and female rafflesias bloom near each other. The Rafflesia arnoldii has no leaves or stems. Instead, the parasitic plant attaches itself to the Tetrastigma vine to get nutrients3.
Rafflesia is native to the southeast Asian rainforests of Indonesia and has proved nearly impossible to propagate anywhere else. To ensure that it has enough nutrients, this flower occasionally blooms, contributing to its rareness.
Another factor is that the flower takes months to prepare to bloom, and the beautiful sight lasts only a few days. Poaching for medicinal properties and ecotourism are threats to the corpse flower.
Thanks to its lack of leaves and nicely camouflaged roots, the white petals of the ghost orchid seem to be floating in mid-air. The petals also have two long curly tendrils that flow downward. Some people say they look like the hind legs of a jumping frog. No surprise that other names for the ghost orchid include white frog orchid, white butterfly, leafless ghost orchid, and leafless orchid.
Their uniquely shaped petals attach to long stalks that wrap around cyprus, maple, and pond apple trees. The exposed green viny roots can perform photosynthesis. At night, ghost orchids release a strong and fresh fragrance.
The ghost orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii, is an endangered plant. It is native to dense forests in Cuba and Florida, the only wild place it grows. The plant’s short blooming window lasts from June to August; the flowers open one at a time. Ghost orchids are vulnerable to poachers4 because of their scarcity in the wild and how hard they are to cultivate.
This is another rare flower that emits a rotting flesh smell. It is also called a corpse flower and is more popularly known by that name. The odor is essential for the flower to attract pollinators. The corpse flower rarely blooms in the wild, and cultivated blooms are not commonplace. When it does bloom, the corpse flower blooms over 9 feet tall.
The Titan arum corpse flower is an inflorescence1, which means that although it looks like a single flower, it is technically a cluster of many tiny flowers. Like a collar, the petal-like structure, which we call the spathe, surrounds the flower spike (spadix). The outside of the spathe is light green to cream in color, but the inside is deep crimson or purple.
The corpse flower is native to the rainforest of Western Sumatra, but they grow it in botanical gardens worldwide. The corpse flower rarely blooms, taking 4 to 10 years and only lasting for a day or two. As such, they attract a crowd of flower lovers in gardens when they do.
The Franklin tree plant is named after Benjamin Franklin, a close friend of John Bartram, the botanist who first described it in 1765. The tree is a shrub belonging to the tea family; many call it the Franklin tea flower.
The beautiful rare flower blooms in the middle of summer until the first snow. It has five white petals and a bouquet of bright yellow stamens. The flowers of the franklin tree bloom one at a time, clustering at the tips of the tree’s branches. They resemble camellias but smell like honeysuckle.
The Franklin tree flower is a popular exotic garden plant that has gone extinct in the wild. It used to grow in the Altamaha River valley in Georgia, U.S. All the Franklin tree flowers you see today came from seeds that Bratram’s son collected in 1791. Good timing, too, as the flower went extinct 50 years after.
Its pouch-like petal, which looks like a slipper, most likely influenced the name of this flower. We also call it lady slipper or slipper orchid. The slipper part of this flower helps drive pollinating insects further into the flower structure so that they can pick or deposit pollen9. Some species have additional petals that are long, narrow, and twisty, and others have broad leaf-like petals.
There are many types of Lady’s Slipper orchids; we find them in Europe, Asia, and America. Some rare beautiful slipper orchid flowers grow in the wild, and others result from horticultural manipulations.
There are many species of the Lady’s Slipper orchid, and quite a few, such as the yellow and purple species, are rare. Species like the white M. xerophyticum and Selenipedium are critically endangered. Also, the fact that these orchids are not easy to propagate makes them rare flowers.
We also know this rare beautiful flower as Angel’s trumpet. It grows from a small tree whose leaves and seeds are poisonous. The flowers are pendant trumpets that face downward in a dramatic drop. Depending on the species or cultivar, the flower could be up to 24 inches long. It could also be white, pink, cream, peach, red, gold, orange, or yellow petals.
Vulcan's trumpets are quite fragrant at night, but they all have different scents. You can grow the Brugmansia tree outdoors, and it will grow as tall as 26 feet, but they grow smaller if you plant them in pots.
Vulcan’s trumpet was native to South America. Still, according to the IUCN Red List, it is now extinct in the wild, perhaps because they used these rare flowers for medicine and rituals by indigenous people8, especially the people of the northern Andes.
It is possible to plant it in your greenhouse, but it is a high-maintenance plant. That's why you are more likely to find it in specialty nurseries and botanical gardens than in home gardens.
The delicate, small flower of the Gibraltar campion is one of the rarest flowers in the world. It also has variations with pale pink and pale violet and white flowers. The flower has bilobed petals that produce fragrance in the evening. The Gibraltar campion’s natural habitat is the desolate rocky outcrops of Gibraltar Rock.
Because of its rarity, we only know a little about this flower. But scientists are working hard to discover new things about the Gibraltar campion plant.
In 1992 scientists believed that the Gibraltar campion was extinct in the wild12. Then, by sheer luck, they rediscovered a few plants in 1994, but it remains a rare flower in their natural habitat.
The IUCN Red List mentions it as an endangered species. So, unfortunately, you may have to visit the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens or the Botanic Garden of San Fernando in Spain to see one up close.
If you enjoy hot cocoa or love chocolate, you will find the chocolate cosmos flower irresistible. It has velvety, deep brownish-red petals, much like rich liquid chocolate. The gorgeous flowers also give off a sweet chocolaty scent when they bloom in late summer. William Thompson first cultivated the chocolate cosmos in 183513, and it soon spread to many home gardens.
Although it's native to Mexico, the chocolate cosmos no longer grows in the wild. By the 1970s, only a few rare species existed, conserved in the Kew Gardens. Of course, you could try to grow the chocolate cosmos in your garden, but it will take a lot of work.
We know we talked about slipper orchids earlier, but this rare flower deserves a separate place. We also call it the Gold of Kinabalu. It is an inflorescence with about 3 to 6 large individual flowers with variations of its yellow and red-brown color scheme. It usually has a pair of striped petals, the slipper petal, and the dorsal sepal.
If you are wondering who the Rothschild’s slipper orchid is named after, that would be Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, an honored orchid grower of the Victorian era5.
Rothschild’s slipper orchid is undoubtedly one of the rarest flowers in the world. This flower is native to the Borneo island in Malaysia and only grows in the Mount Kinabalu rainforests. It grows high up between altitudes of 1,640 and 3,937 feet. Consequently, it is one of the most expensive flowers to propagate.
The night-blooming cereus is a common name for several cacti with flowers blooming only at night. The queen of the night, or Kadupul flower, is the most popular, and most people assume it is the only night-blooming cereus. We also call it the dutchman’s pipe cactus, jungle cactus, lady of the night, etc.
Kadupul flower is native to Mexican and Central American rainforests11. In the wild, it grows on other plants or rocks and thrives as a house plant. The queen of the night flower has big white petals with soft fragrances like that of magnolias.
The Kadupul flower is one of the rarest in the world because they bloom once a year for a few hours. The blooming display is an ethereal sight that is over by dawn. So you may have the rare blooming cactus in your garden but not see it in bloom for years if you are not watching it ardently.
This flower has many names: flame lily, glory lily, tiger claw, climbing lily, etc. Fire lilies have six petals; they are wavy and taper to a sharply pointed apex. The flower hues range from yellow to cream and scarlet red to maroon. The base of the petal is usually yellow, and the color may extend along the petal margins. However, the more significant top part of the flower is bright red.
Fire lilies are poisonous, and ingesting any part of the plant could be fatal to humans and animals7. Gloriosa superba is native to Asia and Africa, but you'll find it in America and Europe thanks to artificial distribution. Also, they use the fire lily in India and other Asian countries as traditional medicine.
The fire lily is a rare flower in Asia because of overharvesting for medicinal purposes. Cultivating it is fraught with problems, so people rely on the wild population. But the demand rate is higher than what is naturally sustainable. As a result, local extinction is a looming possibility.
Juliet roses or Julie roses are a type of hybrid tea rose. We also call them sweet Juliet or double pink David Austin roses. Their colors range from peach and pink to apricot hues. The Juliet rose is relatively large with fully double petals packed closely. David Austin created and named the hybrid after the famous Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet heroine.
The Juliet rose tree grows taller than regular rose shrubs and spreads to about 3 feet. It is a repeat flowering plant that produces several rose flushes from late spring to early winter. As the tree ages, the roses change fragrance. It starts with a fresh tea fragrance and gets citrusy later on.
The Juliet rose is the rarest rose in the world, not just because it is uncommon but because it is a cultivar. Therefore, you could call it a human-made species and it is rare in the wild. It is speculated that it took 15 years and 5 million dollars for the rose breeder to develop the Juliet rose.
The Parrot’s Beak is a plant in the bean family. It grows in hot climates and is native to the canary islands. The plant has long trailing vines and is best planted near walls or hanging pots. The parrot’s beak flowers bloom in spring and summer.
The flower resembles a parrot’s beak. The red, gold, or burgundy showy petals contrast sharply with the silvery stems and needle-like leaves. Other names for Parrot’s Beak flowers include coral gems and pelican beak.
By 1884, Lotus berthelotii was no longer common in the wild. Loss of habitat and pollinating birds may have made it one of the rarest flowers in the world2.
Its ornamental quality means that it thrives in gardens all over the world. But it is still a rare flower because cultivating it is difficult. It has specific temperature and water requirements, and any slight fluctuation could cause it to die.
Black is one of the rarest flower colors, which makes the black bat flower one of the rarest flowers in the world. People also call it the bat blossom, perhaps because the flower resembles the outline of a bat. Other names for it include Cat’s whiskers and devil flower.
It has a pair of maroon-black to deep purple wing-shaped modified leaves (bracts), and each of the leaves is about 6 inches across. Long green droopy stamens (bracteoles) surround the purple flower clusters right in the middle.
The rarest black flower is the black bat flower, and you can only find this flower in tropical Southeast Asia. If you can replicate the climate conditions of the Southeast Asian tropics, you can try to cultivate them. However, we recommend you refrain from buying bat flower plants for your garden, as they are tough to grow.
In our list of rare flowers, this may be the strangest. Rhizanthella gardneri spends its entire life below or on the soil's surface. The underground orchid is a succulent herb endemic to western Australia. The flower has a tulip style and cream to pale pink flowers.
It doesn't photosynthesize, and so it depends on the symbiotic relationship between a type of fungi and broom bush6. That's why they find it growing underground below thickets of broom bushes.
In Australia, conservation authorities tag and protect this flower as a critically endangered species. It is becoming exceedingly rare as more land area is cleared for agriculture, leading to degradation and deforestation.
The Middlemist Red flower looks like a big dark pink rose, not red as its name suggests. It has lush green foliage like roses too. Middlemist belongs to a family of flowers we call Camellia.
There are many other species and hybrids of Camellias, but most of them are yet to be identified. Perhaps because it escaped scientific study for many years after it disappeared from the Kew Gardens, it was until the 1980s that scientists were able to study the plant again.
The Middlemist Red is considered the rarest flower in the world. It is found in London and New Zealand, with only one specimen in each location. It used to be native to Asia but is now extinct on the continent. John Middlemist was responsible for bringing the flower to London in 1804.
Last on our list of rarest flowers in the world is the white Hawaiian hibiscus. The scientific community refers to it as Hibiscus arnottianus subsp Immaculatus or the Hawaiian hibiscus Immaculatus species. Its common names include Koki’o ke’oke’o, Pamakani, Hau hele, and O’ahu white hibiscus.
The slightly fragrant flower is usually white, but some have a pale pink hue due to age. The flower blooms all year. These beautiful flowers are shaped like a pinwheel, about 4 inches in diameter. The stamen column could be pink, red, or white. Unfortunately, the white hibiscus hybridizes readily, so cultivators have to hand-pollinate the flower to keep it from doing so.
The white Hawaiian hibiscus is one of the rare flowers native to the rainforests of mountains Moloka’i and O’ahu in Hawaii. You can only find some subspecies between elevations of 390 to 2500 feet. The Immaculatus subspecies that grow in the valleys of Moloka’i are rarely seen.
There are many rare flowers in the world for different reasons. Whatever the reason, rare flowers are beautiful parts of nature that we shouldn't allow to go extinct. As a lover of rare plants, you can do your part by not encouraging the illegal harvesting and trade of rare flowers. You should verify the source of any rare flower or product you buy. You may even find one of these gems in the wild on rare occasions.
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Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.