Flowers are a vital component of our natural world, offering beauty and a delightful fragrance to our surroundings. Some flowers, however, are so rare and elusive that they are considered the jewels of the botanical world.
We’ll delve into the stories behind sixteen of the world’s rarest flowers, exploring their unique features, conservation statuses, cultural significance, and the challenges in cultivating or propagating these botanical wonders.
16 Types of Unique Flowers in the World
Get ready to view some of the most beautiful and rarest flowers in the world (in no particular order).
1. Kadupul Flower
The Night-Blooming Cereus, Kadapul, or its scientific name, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is a stunning rare flower that only blooms at night. This flower is native to Central and South America and is highly sought after for its exceptional beauty and captivating fragrance.
It’s also known as the “Queen of the Night” due to its rarity and breathtaking appearance.
The Kadupul holds significant spiritual significance in Sri Lankan culture. The ephemeral nature symbolizes the impermanence of life and the importance of appreciating beauty in the present moment. In Sri Lanka, it is often used in Buddhist rituals and offerings.
While some claim it grows only in Sri Lanka, others suggest it can be found in India, Japan, China, and Latin America.
Historically, the Night-Blooming Cereus has been used in traditional medicine and cultural rituals by indigenous peoples of Central and South America. Its medicinal uses include treating skin conditions, digestive issues, and respiratory problems. The flower’s nocturnal blooming has also made it a symbol of mystery and rebirth in various cultures.
Sadly, the Night-Blooming Cereus is highly endangered (listed as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List ¹) due to habitat loss and overcollection. However, conservation efforts have been implemented to protect this uncommon and exquisite flower, such as creating protected areas and propagating the flower in botanical gardens.
Interesting Fact: The Kadupul flower is known as “beauty under the moon” or Gekka Bijin in Japan.
2. Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers Cypripedium calceolus
The Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers, Cypripedium calceolus, and Cypripedium reginae are exquisite and rare orchids native to North America. These orchids flaunt delicate, slipper-shaped flowers highly coveted for their stunning beauty.
This flower holds historical significance for Native American tribes and early European settlers, who used these plants for their medicinal properties. Native Americans believed that the roots of these flowers could relieve anxiety and nervousness, while settlers used them to treat ailments such as toothaches and insomnia.
Regrettably, the Yellow and Purple Lady Slippers are in grave danger due to habitat loss and overcollection. To safeguard these rare and splendid orchids, conservation efforts have been initiated.
3. Ghost Orchid
The Ghost Orchid, also known as Dendrophylax lindenii, is an elusive and rare orchid found in the swamps and wetlands of Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas. It’s named after its ghostly white flowers that appear to float in mid-air, giving it an otherworldly and ethereal appearance.
First discovered in the 19th century ², the Ghost Orchid has been an object of fascination for botanists and collectors alike. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, where the flower is native, has historically used the plant in their traditional medicine to treat various ailments.
This unique flower has no leaves and chlorophyll, relying on fungi to obtain nutrients. It’s also pollinated by a specific species of moth that’s attracted to its alluring scent. Unfortunately, the destruction of its natural habitat has made the Ghost Orchid even rarer.
It is currently listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. In Florida, the Ghost Orchid is often used in traditional Seminole medicine and holds cultural significance for the indigenous people.
Interesting fact: When in bloom, the Ghost Orchid emits a unique soap-like odor, adding to its enigmatic and alluring nature.
4. Corpse Flower
Amorphophallus titanum, or Corpse flower, is an obscure but pretty rare flower that originated in Indonesia. The flower emits a strong, foul odor resembling rotting flesh to attract pollinators, such as carrion beetles and flies. It also lacks roots, leaves, and even a stem. Appearing to have just one petal, cone-shaped and green on the outside with burgundy red coloring inside.
It can grow to an impressive 10 feet tall and is pollinated by carrion beetles, and flesh flies drawn to its distinct aroma.
Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari first discovered the Corpse Flower in 1878 in Sumatra ³. Its distinct odor and unique appearance have made it a significant part of Indonesian folklore and rituals. In some cultures, the flower is believed to have mystical powers, offering protection from evil spirits.
The Corpse Flower is listed as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss and the rarity of its blooming events.
Interesting fact: The Corpse Flower, blooming once every few decades, is so rare that people flock to botanical gardens to see and smell it, despite its putrid odor resembling rotting meat.
5. Youtan Poluo
The Youtan Poluo, also known as Nelumbo nucifera, is a unique and rare flower that originates from China. This flower is also called the “Buddha’s Hand” due to its hand-like appearance.
Highly valued in Chinese culture, the Youtan Poluo holds significant spiritual significance. Yet, according to legend, this flower only blooms once every 3,000 years, making it one of the rarest flowers globally.
Mentioned in Buddhist texts, the Youtan Poluo was found in 2010 at a nun’s residence on Lushan Mountain, situated in China’s Jiangxi province ⁴.
Associated with the reincarnation of the Buddha, it is believed to bring good fortune and purity. The Youtan Poluo is also used in traditional Chinese medicine and religious ceremonies. In addition, this rare flower has been linked to the Buddha himself and is believed to bloom only when a great sage is present in the world.
Interesting Facts: The Youtan Poluo, a rare flower from China, emits a sandalwood-like fragrance and symbolizes immortality in Buddhist scriptures.
6. Middlemist Red
The Middlemist Red (Middlemist camellia) is a rare and beautiful flower native to China.
It was first brought to England in the early 1800s by John Middlemist, a nurseryman from London ⁵, and it is named after him. The Middlemist Red has bright red petals and a yellow center, and it is highly prized for its beauty.
Over-cultivation is believed to be a contributing factor to its extinction. The vibrant pink Camellia flower is currently cultivated in captivity, with one example housed in a New Zealand botanical garden and another in an English greenhouse.
Interesting Fact: While John Middlemist sold many to the public after 1804, there may still be undiscovered specimens growing in gardens.
7. Chocolate Cosmos
Discovered in the 19th century, the Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) is native to Mexico and has been historically cultivated for its unique chocolate scent.
The flower is often used in traditional ceremonies, and its aroma has been valued for its calming properties. In addition, it is highly prized for its beauty and fragrance, often used in perfumes and other fragrances.
Though native to Mexico, the Chocolate Cosmos no longer exists in the wild. It cannot produce seeds and requires tissue culture or root division to grow. As a result, only clones of the original flower exist today.
Interesting Facts: Since 1902, the Chocolate Cosmos has been propagated and is known to bloom in the evenings towards the end of summer. Additionally, areas where it grows, are legally protected.
8. Jade Vine
Native to the Philippines, this flower (Strongylodon macrobotrys) is stunning and uncommon. Jade vine has long, dangling clusters of unique turquoise-colored flowers that resemble jade, giving it its name. It’s pollinated by bats, which are attracted to its bright color and sweet nectar.
Its unique color and stunning appearance have made it a symbol of natural beauty, and it is often used in traditional Filipino weddings and other ceremonies.
It features a claw-shaped flower that can grow up to 3 meters in length and is considered one of the rarest flowers due to deforestation pushing it close to extinction.
The primary threat to the Jade Vine is habitat loss due to deforestation and agricultural expansion. Conservation efforts include establishing protected areas, reforestation programs, and cultivating this rare flower in botanical gardens for research and public education.
Interesting Fact: The Jade Vine reportedly has a luminous quality during twilight.
9. Juliet Rose – The Rarest Rose in the World
The Juliet Rose, is considered the rarest rose in the world, and also one of the most unique flowers in the world. It took David Austin (a rose breeder) 12 years and a whopping $3,716,115.00 to cultivate this tea rose in England.
Featuring peach and apricot petals that open to reveal smaller blooms at the heart when fully bloomed, making it a unique and stunning rose.
If you’re a rose lover, you may have better luck getting your hands on blue roses.
Interesting Fact: In 2006, the Juliet Rose was introduced at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show in London. This stunning rose variety has since become a symbol of dedication and passion in the world of gardening.
10. Fire Lily
The Fire Lily ( or Flame Lily) is a distinct and stunning trumpet-shaped flower with red and orange-yellow petals that resemble flames. While not considered a rare flower, it’s quickly becoming endangered in some countries, including Sri Lanka and Odisha, where it’s close to extinction, making it a rare flower in India.
It has been used in traditional medicine throughout Africa and Asia for centuries. Its vibrant colors and unique shape have also made it a symbol of cultural significance in countries like Sri Lanka and India, where it is often used in religious ceremonies and celebrations.
While indigenous to Asia and Africa’s tropical regions, it has become an invasive species in countries such as Australia, the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia. However, these flowers can be found in the wild and in people’s yards, adding a vibrant touch of color to any garden.
Interesting Facts: This plant can grow up to 12 feet tall and has medicinal properties, but it is also toxic to humans and can cause skin irritation.
11. Franklin Tree Flower
The Franklin Tree Flower, a rare and exquisite flower, has been extinct in the wild since the early 1800s, earning it a place among the rarest flowers in the world.
First discovered by American botanists John Bartram and William Bartram in 1765 ⁶. They collected seeds from the last known wild specimens, ensuring the species’ survival in cultivation. The flower has since become a symbol of perseverance and botanical discovery.
This striking cup-shaped bloom features five white petals surrounding a cluster of golden yellow stamens, representing the distinct Franklinia genus within the tea family. During autumn, the dark green leaves of this plant turn red, and its flowers release a pleasant honeysuckle-like fragrance, which adds to the charm of any garden.
Native to Georgia’s Altamaha River valley. Unfortunately, the plant is believed to have gone extinct in the wild due to fungal disease, rendering it a rare and valuable presence in any garden.
Interesting Fact: All existing Franklin Tree Flowers today come from seeds collected in the 1700s, after being first discovered in 1765.
12. Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid
Endemic to the rainforests of Borneo, the Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum rothschildianum)is considered one of the world’s rarest and most expensive flowers. Growing at altitudes above 1,640′ and taking 15 years to bloom, this orchid is a prized possession and is illegally sold on the black market for obscene amounts.
Its long yellow and black or reddish-striped petals set it apart from other Slipper Orchids, with two thin petals growing horizontally from the center.
Native to the rainforests of Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia’s Borneo island, the Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid can only grow between altitudes of 1,640 and 3,930 feet above sea level.
Its flowering season is in April and May, and you can catch a glimpse of these stunning flowers in a fenced-off area of Kinabalu National Park. Despite its rarity, Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid remains a sought-after addition to any garden, adding a touch of uniqueness and beauty to any space.
The illegal trade of this orchid has contributed to its declining population in the wild. Conservation efforts include:
- Strict enforcement of wildlife protection laws.
- Raising awareness about the species.
- The propagation of the orchid in specialized nurseries.
Interesting Fact: On the black market, a single stem of the Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid has sold for up to $5,000.
13. Parrot’s Beak
The Parrot’s Beak Flower (Lotus berthelotii), a rare and unique flower, requires specific temperatures to bloom, making it one of the rarest flowers globally. This stunning flower, resembling a parrot’s beak with its claw-shaped petals, comes in striking orange and red colors, measuring up to one inch long.
Originating from the Cape Verde and Canary Islands, the Parrot’s Beak is thought to be extinct in the wild, with merely a handful of specimens from this species still existing today. However, these flowers can be cultivated in gardens and indoors for ornamental purposes, adding a touch of uniqueness and beauty to any space.
It was historically used by the native Guanche people for medicinal purposes. However, its vibrant colors and distinctive shape have made it a symbol of exotic beauty in horticulture.
This unique flower blooms best in the spring, requiring a lot of sunshine and chilly temperatures. It also needs well-drained but moist soil to avoid root rot. Despite its challenging growing conditions, this flower remains a sought-after addition to any garden, with each bloom a rare and precious sight to behold.
Interesting Facts: This flower is also known as Pelican’s Beak, Coral Gem, Cat Claw, Lotus Vine, and Pigeon Beak. It has been honored with the esteemed Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
14. Koki’o Flower
The Koki’o (Hibiscus arnottianus), a rare hibiscus flower, is found only in specific wet mountainous forest areas, making it one of the rarest flowers globally. With its large, 4-inch diameter white flowers that emit a delightful fragrance, the immaculatus variety of Hibiscus arnottianus is genuinely stunning.
This shrub can grow up to over 14′ – 20 tall, adding a touch of elegance and beauty to any garden.
While the Koki’o is found on Hawaii’s Oahu and Moloka’i islands, the Hibiscus arnottianus subspecies immaculatus is exclusive to Moloka’i island. Despite its rarity, it remains a sought-after addition to any garden, with each bloom a rare and precious sight.
Its unique features and stunning flowers make it a prized possession, adding a touch of beauty and elegance to any space.
Interesting Facts: The flowers can be grown from fresh seeds without difficulty, but they hybridize easily, leading to offspring that have different characteristics from their parents.
15. Monkey Orchid
Scientifically known as Dracula simia, the Monkey Orchid is a captivating and rare flower native to the high-elevation cloud forests of Central and South America, primarily in countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.
The orchid’s name, Dracula, is derived from the Latin word for “little dragon” due to its resemblance to a dragon’s face, while “simia” refers to its monkey-like appearance. This unique combination of characteristics has made the Monkey Orchid a sought-after species among collectors and enthusiasts worldwide.
It thrives in cool, moist environments at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 meters above sea level. It grows as an epiphyte, meaning it attaches itself to trees or other plants for support rather than rooting in the soil.
The Monkey Orchid’s flowers also emit a pleasant fragrance similar to ripe oranges, an alluring characteristic that attracts pollinators.
Due to habitat loss, climate change, and excessive collection for the horticultural trade, the Monkey Orchid is considered vulnerable in some regions of its native habitat. As a result, conservation efforts are underway to protect the species and its unique cloud forest environment.
16. Gibraltar Campion Flower
Once thought to have vanished from the face of the Earth, the captivating Gibraltar Campion (Silene tomentosa) emerged like a phoenix from the ashes, dazzling the world with its vibrant hues of violet and bright pink. This elusive gem of the plant kingdom, endemic to Gibraltar, was miraculously rediscovered in 1994 within the rugged cliffs of the Upper Rock Nature Preserve.
A testament to the resilience of nature, the Gibraltar Campion flourishes at a modest height of 40 cm, charming onlookers with its gently scented, bilobed flowers. Guardians of this botanical treasure, the Almeda Gibraltar Botanic Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens of London, have joined forces to cultivate and protect the Campion, whose existence is safeguarded by the Nature Protection Act of 1991 ⁷.
The Gibraltar Campion proudly stands as a symbol of hope, its delicate beauty gracing the rocky outcrops of the Rock of Gibraltar and serving as a gentle reminder of the importance of conservation and the power of nature’s resurgence.
What is the rarest flower in the world?
The Middlemist Red, the world’s rarest flower, exists only in London and New Zealand. Originally from Asia, it was brought to London by John Middlemist and is now considered extinct in its native region.
What makes a flower rare?
A rare flower is a unique plant species that exhibit irregular blooming patterns, thrives in specialized habitats, or has limited occurrences in the wild. These captivating blossoms often exhibit unusual characteristics, making them a sought-after sight for nature enthusiasts and botanists.
1: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (n.d.). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. https://www.iucnredlist.org/en
2: THE GHOST ORCHID DEMYSTIFIED: BIOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND CONSERVATION OF DENDROPHYLAX LINDENII IN FLORIDA AND CUBA. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337135637_The_Ghost_Orchid_Demystified_Biology_Ecology_and_Conservation_of_Dendrophylax_lindenii_in_Florida_and_Cuba
3: Titan Arum—FAQ | Chicago Botanic Garden. (2023, April 10). Titan Arum—FAQ | Chicago Botanic Garden. https://www.chicagobotanic.org/titan/faq
4: Garry, B. T., Corless, B. B., Cary, T., Clay, B. X., Field, B. M., & Roberts, B. L. (2010, March 1). Rare Buddhist flower found under nun’s washing machine. Rare Buddhist Flower Found Under Nun’s Washing Machine. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/7345137/Rare-Buddhist-flower-found-under-nuns-washing-machine.html
5: Rare camellia blooms in Chiswick. (2010, March 14). Richmond and Twickenham Times. https://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/news/5059248.rare-camellia-blooms-chiswick/
6: Franklin Tree | Arnold Arboretum. (n.d.). Franklin Tree | Arnold Arboretum. https://arboretum.harvard.edu/plant-bios/franklin-tree/
7: G. (2021, June 25). A Rare Plant Conservation Success Story from Gibraltar. World Sensorium / Conservancy. https://worldsensorium.com/a-rare-plant-conservation-success-story-from-gibraltar/
Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.