Mother nature can be kind when she shows her beautiful creations, but beauty can sometimes be a cruel disguise for danger. Here are 15 stunning African flowers, some of which you should never touch. They can hurt you!
1. Scadoxus Multiflorus, Somalia
This strongly toxic flower is easily recognized by its brilliant red dandelion-like bulb. Many farmers often comb their landscapes to get rid of these plants, as they can potentially kill off their goats and sheep that munch on them. Regardless of their potency, they’re certainly pleasant to look at (from afar).
Also found in: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone
2. Christ Flower – Madagascar
Uniquely named for the flower’s resemblance to a crown of thorns, Christ flower (Euphorbia milii) can be admired at a safe distance. Its sap can be poisonous (not lethal), so it’s heavily advised not to pluck it. Otherwise, itchy irritable skin and a upset stomach will be in store for you.
3. African Moon Daisy – Namibia
Would you believe us if we told you that some plants can be hermaphrodites? The African moon daisy has both the female and male florets, making it quite easy to grow. It’s clear how this flower would earn its simple name due to its eclipse-like bulb.
4. Impala Lily – Zambia
If you recollect seeing Africans in documentaries using poisonous darts to take down a game animal, you’ll be pleased to learn that it was the impala lily they gathered the toxins from. This stunning flower spurts milky toxic alkaloids that can also be used to stun fish.
Also found in Mozambique and Southeastern Africa
5. Flame Lily – Zimbabwe
Like the African moon daisy, the flame lily is also a hermaphrodite and is the national flower of Zimbabwe. In fact, Queen Elizabeth received a diamond-brooch in shape of a flame lily as a gift from the president of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). Whether she knew of the flower’s cross-sex or not, is anyone’s guess.
6. Hydnora Africana – Southern Africa
Feed me, Seymour! Looking like a plant from Mars, the hydnora africana is nonetheless, a flower with an unique advantage. The plant has a feces-like smell that attracts dung beetles into its trap. Once the unsuspecting beetle enters inside the monstrous stems, the flower snaps shut and swallows the beetle whole for a midnight snack.
7. Monotes Kerstingii – Tropical West Africa
Found mostly in dry savanna, this flower grows in trees heavily harvested for their wood. Locals believe the tree’s leaves and stems can successfully treat jaundice, abscess and fractures.
Also found in: Guinea, Mali, Sudan, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria
8. Vachellia Farnesiana – Ethiopia
This flower is known for its pleasant scent, and is is often harvested for perfumes. Its bark is used for tannin and its leaves are used for tamarind seasoning. When venturing upon this special plant, take time to smell it in its natural state.
9. Asphodelus – Algeria
You’ll hear this plant come up in Greek mythology and poems by Tennyson and Longfellow. Even Harry Potter uses this flower in one of his many spells — it grows well in Europe. The asphodelus is easily recognizable by its towering white flowers and is often found basking in the hot desert sun of the Maghreb.
Also found in: Libya, Morocco and Tunisa
10. Crinum Macowanii – Seychelles
With closed buds that resemble toothpaste, this flower has a unique appeal. It’s usually found on mountaintops exposed to sunlight. Be sure to look for it in the evening. Its buds only opens up at night, releasing sweet scents.
Also found in: South Africa and Somalia
11. African Tulip – Ghana
Attractive to hummingbirds and other local birds by its inviting colors, African tulips are a pleasant sight. Although not toxic, their yellow buds can stain your fingers if you touch them, making them fun for local children to play with.
Also found in: Angola, Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya
12. African Poinsetta – Congo
When thinking of poinsettas, chances are you’re thinking of the famous Christmas flowers with their bright red leaves. This flower is full of toxins, but only enough to make you feel ill, contrary to urban legends of poinsettas killing people upon consumption. Don’t let its deadly reputation scare you off. But also don’t eat it.
13. White Mouth Dayflower – Burkina Faso
Don’t be startled and spasmodically swat this plant away. Alternatively known by its Latin name, commelina erecta, this flower is appreciated for its glimmery colors and shapes that make it resemble an insect.
Also found in: Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Nigeria
14. Toadflax – Morocco
Contrary to it’s amphibian name, this gorgeous flower has no characteristics of a toad. Toadflax flowers are known to secrete special edible oils that are often found in local cooking. And don’t worry, if you kiss it, you won’t get warts.
Also found in: Algeria
15. Desert Rose – Angola
The desert rose (adenium) can be easily repotted due to its thick stems. It grows slowly and is extremely tolerant to neglect (drought). Its poisonous sap has been used for arrows to take down game, much like its cousin, the impala lily. It’s native to Northeastern and Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Also found in: Zambia and South Africa