Audley Recommends: Unmissable Plants and Trees from around the World

7th March 2013

Evolution has thrown up some odd but very impressive looking plants and trees over time. Here is a small selection which you might consider making a detour to see during your next holiday.

Kauri tree, New Zealand



New Zealand's Kauri coast is home to the last and largest remaining Kauri trees in the world. Step back in time, quite literally, as some are over 1,200 years old and admire the sheer size and majesty of these trees on a holiday in New Zeland. Their thick, straight trunks were ideal for sailing ship masts, which resulted in most of the great Kauri forests being logged-out. The Waipoua Forest in the North Island is now the best place to photograph those that remain.


Quiver tree, Namibia


The name 'quiver tree' comes from the San People's (or Bushmen) use of the hollowed-out branches (the wood is soft) which makes an excellent quiver for their arrows. The trunk can also be hollowed out and used to store water, meat and vegetables. It flourishes in desert and semi-desert areas and is found most easily in parts of South Africa and Namibia.


Rafflesia flower, Malaysia



The Rafflesia is the world's largest flower and is the subject of many a photograph. It can exceed three feet in diameter and weigh over 20 pounds. The uniqueness of Rafflesia lies not just in its size and appearance. Its peculiar parasitic lifestyle means that it is totally dependent on a host (for example, a vine) for survival. Incidentally, it gets its name from Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of the British colony in Singapore.


Baobab tree, Madagascar



Because the baobab tree is capable of providing food, water, shelter and medicine, it has been given the title of 'the tree of life'. These trees have been used as houses, storage barns and even prisons. Its huge trunk doesn’t have any growth rings and its age can only be measured through radio carbon dating. Apparently, baobabs can be over 2,000 years old. They can be photographed in all their glory on trips to Madagascar, mainland Africa and Australia.


Welwitschia mirabilis, Namibia



Welwitschia mirabilis consists of only two leaves and a stem with roots. Its two leaves continuously grow to a length of between two and four metres, and usually become split into several strap-shaped sections. Eventually, this plant can grow to be almost six feet high and 24 feet wide. It is a very long-living plant, living between 400 and 1,500 years. Mirabilis can be photographed mainly in Namibia, and is thought to be a relic of the Jurassic period.


Halfmens, South Africa

© Geoff Levey

Pachypodium namaquanum, more commonly known as elephant’s trunk, clubfoot, halfman or halfmens, is a succulent plant that can look like a tree when fully grown. The name halfmens is an Afrikaan word meaning semi-human because from a distance, the plants look like people walking up a slope. Halfmens are found in dry rocky deserts at altitudes from 300 to 900 metres above sea level.


Vegetable sheep, New Zealand

© Jardin Lautaret

A native of New Zealand's rocky mountains the vegetable sheep plant has small white flowers and hairy leaves which, from a distance, gives it a sheep-like appearance. This is a really unusual plant and one that is worth a click of the camera if you come across it! The introduction of rabbits by Europeans severely depleted the plant in some areas, although with New Zealand's wild rabbit population under control, it has since recovered. In all there are about 20 species in New Zealand, all of them endemic.


Hydnora africana, South Africa

© Derek Keats

Hydnora africana is an unusual flesh coloured parasitic flower, meaning that it attached itself to the roots of other deserts plants in South Africa. The putrid-smelling blossom attracts herds of carrion beetles and makes for a very interesting photograph.




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