5 Evil Plants We Should Probably Get Rid Of
There's a reason nobody makes horror movies about plants. At worst, they can give you a little bit of an itchy rash or grow fruit that will poison you. (Hint: Try not eating random shit you come across in the woods.) But if you look hard enough, you'll find some completely real merchants of verdant death that would have actually made The Happening a little bit scary.
The Bullhorn Acacia: The Mind-Control Flower
This devious plant has achieved something usually only reserved for B-list comic book supervillains: It's capable of commanding swarms of insects. The bullhorn acacia provides shelter and nutrient-packed nectar to stinging ants in exchange for their protection, but with a catch.
An enzyme in the nectar changes the ants' physiology, making it impossible for them to digest any other kind of sugar. This essentially makes the insects chemically dependent on the acacia's sweetness, which they will get as long as they protect it. The plant makes a certain chemical which makes the bugs go absolutely apeshit psychotic on command. So whenever an animal, like a giraffe, tries to eat the plant, the acacia releases the chemical and has its army bite the face off the attacker.
Yup, that is exactly how we imagined the plant would look, minus the skull-shaped leaves.
"But wait," you might be saying, if you know anything about ants and plants. "Don't ants destroy plants, because they eat the leaves and scare away helpful insects?" The answer is that they would, if it weren't for the aforementioned mind-control thing that the plant has going for it. When it needs to, the acacia can also produce a different chemical, which attracts pollinating bees to help it reproduce. It also totally repulses the ants, allowing its flowers to bloom in peace.
"Kinda getting a few mixed signals over here, sweetums."
Once the pollination is complete, the acacia takes the chemical lock off the door and invites the junkie ants back into its crack house of horrors. Mother nature, everyone!
Gympie-Gympie: The Jellyfish Tree Of Endless Pain
The Gympie-Gympie is a poisonous tree from Australia, even if it's named like a Legend Of Zelda enemy. Try to picture a shrubbery made out of syringes filled with acid and mace, and you'll more or less have a Gympie-Gympie.
Thank God that it has such a distinctive look, then.
Technically more of a shrub than a tree, the Gympie-Gympie's foliage is covered in tiny hairs which, upon contact with human skin, deliver a sting that can remain blindingly painful for up to several months -- or, if you're unlucky, over a year. One scientist (who was wearing welding gloves when she got stung) compared the sensation to "being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time." So not only is this the most painful tree known to man, it's also the kinkiest.
"S S S S & M M M M."
There's lots of folklore centered around the Gympie-Gympie, such as horses jumping off cliffs because of the pain the plant inflicted on them. There's even a story of a World War II officer committing suicide after mistakenly using the tree's leaves as toilet paper -- which sounded kind of funny at first, but became more and more terrifying the longer we thought about it. Don't make our mistake.
Manchineel: The Death Apple Tree
The manchineel is a morbidly fascinating masterpiece of death and efficiency. Every part of the tree has been designed -- presumably by Mother Nature while she was dating Satan to piss off her parents -- to kill humans in the most horrifying ways possible.
"Shut up, mom. You don't get it. It's art!" -- Teenager Nature, probably.
Officially dubbed the "most dangerous tree" by Guinness World Records, the slightest bit of contact with manchineel's sap leaves its victims covered in blisters, and can even render one blind if it gets in their eyes. And that's just the sap. It's delicious-looking, tiny apple-like fruits can cause excruciatingly painful oral swelling, enlargement of the lymph nodes, bleeding in the throat, problems with breathing, and even death.
In addition, standing underneath the tree while it's raining can be enough to make you break out in blisters. And if you try to burn it, the tree will produce toxic smoke that causes blindness.
That sign seems awfully close to the tree. Note: "Awfully close" here means "less than two nautical miles."
It's little wonder that some Native American tribes allegedly used to tie people to this tree as a form of torture. There are even accounts that Ponce de Leon was killed by an arrow poisoned with the sap of a manchineel while searching for the Fountain of Youth. In conclusion, this plant could not be a bigger "Fuck you" to humans even if it literally grew into the shape of a giant hand with an extended middle finger.
Puya Chilensis: The Sheep-Eating Monster Of The Andes
A native of South America, Puya chilensis is a plant that grows up to 10 feet and feeds on the flesh of animals, which probably means that it's a big Venus flytrap that occasionally snatches a mouse or something, right? Nope! The Puya is basically a real-life version of the carnivorous monster plant from Little Shop Of Horrors. Only it's way more horrifying, because unlike Audrey II, this mean green mother from Chile is patient.
"Feed us, Seymour. That is, if you have the time. We can wait."
See, the Puya plants have a mini grove of leaves with sharp spines at their base, which have been known to trap small animals, like birds or rodents. And once they are entangled in the organic barbwire, there is no getting out of it. The trapped animal will remain at the foot of the Puya, slowly dying of thirst and hunger, until it finally croaks and starts decomposing. Then, the flower will absorb all of the nutrients that seeped into the ground, like Clive Barker's fertilizer.
If plants could talk, this one would only make creepy sexual "Mmmmmm" sounds.
There are even tales of the Puya trapping sheep, whose wool gets so easily entangled in the plant's spiky spines. Whether that's true or not remains to be confirmed (if so, no one has apparently ever photographed it), but it does sound plausible enough for us to call The Royal Horticultural Society a bunch of idiots (sorry, "wankers") for introducing a Puya chilensis to a glasshouse in England. Animal rights groups can relax, though; the plant is being fed a liquid fertilizer which should keep its carnivorous appetite at bay ... for the time being.
Horsetail: The Plant That Reproduces Via Walking Spider Monsters
One of the major weaknesses of any evil plant out there is that they are bolted to the ground and can't chase after you. When shit goes down, humans reserve the right to get on their two legs and get the fuck out of there. It's what has kept us alive. It's what's going to help us win the Human-Plant war ... unless they send the Mobile Horsetail Brigade after us.
Don't worry, these are only microscopic.
Here's why you should be very scared right now: The Equisetum plants (horsetails) reproduce by giving birth to tiny spores with legs (or "elaters," if you want to get technical.) Once released, the spores' legs begin to curl and uncurl when the moisture levels change, allowing them to walk on the goddamn ground.
And of course they sort of look like spiders!
Oh, and the spider spores can also jump. No one knows why, exactly (probably to murder), but one explanation is that they do it to catch the wind and spread to other, more fruitful areas. And by "fruitful areas," we mean our brains (probably).
But that isn't the only explanation; it's just the only one that's a little bit beyond a wild guess. And that's the scariest part about these microscopic devils: No one knows why they have legs, how they learned to jump and walk, and what purpose those bone-like legs really serve. We know nothing. And in the future, when all that's left is the scorched Earth and the horsetail plants growing out of human skeletons littering the post-apocalyptic landscape, we'll know. But by then, it will be way too late.
Forget Global Warming. Let these motherfuckers burn.
Matthew Moffitt has a science fiction novel coming out in November for EDGE science fiction and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter for more info. Shannon Dell is a travel writer. Follow her at www.thestrangeandnew.com.
For more reasons it's time to arm ourselves for the oncoming war with Mother Nature, check out 5 Bizarre Ways The Weather Can Kill You Without Warning and The 5 Most Humiliating Ways The Wilderness Can Kill You.
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