Rare flowers are incredibly intricate and beautiful features of the natural world. Their gorgeous colors, showy petals, and intoxicating scents have fascinated humans for centuries. Unfortunately, several species of flowers around the world are considered extremely rare, and we’re at risk of losing them altogether. In this article, we’ll explore 25 of the rarest flowers in the world, including their botanical characteristics, native range, and what makes them so unique and rare.
How Are Rare Flowers Defined?
There isn’t scientific or cultural consensus on what a rare flower actually is. Typically, rare flowers are species that are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. These flowers are at risk of extinction due to factors like climate change, habitat loss, or low populations.
A rare flower may also be defined as an extremely rare cultivar of a particular flower. Some rare cultivars are extremely difficult to cultivate. This can mean that just a handful of these specimens exist around the world. This definition applies to the Juliet rose – known as the rarest rose variety in the world.
25 Rarest Flowers in the World
1. Black Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri)
The Black Bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) is a highly unusual member of the yam family (Dioscoreaceae). Black bat flowers are indigenous to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other tropical areas of Southeast Asia. French horticulturist Édouard André first described these odd-looking plants in 1901.
Black bat flowers have large, slightly bat-shaped black blooms. These flowers can grow up to 12 inches across. Each bloom sports several long tendrils that can be up to 28 inches long. Black bat flowers are one of the world’s rarest black flowers, which itself is the world’s rarest flower color.
2. Brugmansia vulcanicola
Brugmansia vulcanicola is an extremely rare (and toxic) flowering shrub that originated in the cool, humid highlands of the Colombian and Ecuadorian Andes. It’s part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and belongs to the Brugmansia genus. Unfortunately, Brugmansia vulcanicola is believed to be extinct in the wild and now only exists in gardens or horticultural institutions.
Although it has no common name, Brugmansia vulcanicola translates as ‘Volcanic-soil-favoring angel’s trumpet’. Brugmansia vulcanicola has pinkish-red trumpet-shaped that hang like pendants from the branches. These beautiful flowers are the smallest blooms produced by any member of the Brugmansia genus.
3. Camellia ‘Middlemist’s Red’
Camellia ‘Middlemist’s Red’ is thought to be the rarest flower in the world. It’s believed that there are only two specimens of this plant left on Earth. One is kept in the conservatory at Chiswick House in the UK, while the other is located in New Zealand.
This extremely rare cultivar of Camellia japonica was brought to the UK from China in 1804 by John Middlemist. Now, this beautiful camellia is thought to be extinct in the wild due to over-cultivation. Camellia ‘Middlemist’s Red’ produces large, stunning bright pinkish-red rose-like blooms.
4. Cayman Sage (Salvia caymanensis)
Cayman sage (Salvia caymanensis) is a Critically Endangered member of the Salvia genus native to Grand Cayman – the largest of the Cayman Islands. This pretty perennial was thought to be completely extinct for 40 years between 1967 and 2007. However, it was rediscovered after a campaign offering a reward for sighting these rare flowers.
Since its rediscovery, approximately 300 Cayman sage plants have been found. Cayman sage has gorgeous pale blue flowers with distinctive large lips and white interior markings. Cayman sage is a member of the sage family (Lamiaceae).
5. Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos astrosanguineus)
Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos astrosanguineus) is a fantastic member of the Cosmos genus that’s nearly extinct in the wild. It belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae). Chocolate cosmos is indigenous to Mexico, where it only grows in a few states. These gorgeous flowers require a mixed pine and oak forest habitat with elevations ranging from 5,910 to 8,040 feet.
Chocolate cosmos is named for the heavenly chocolate-vanilla scent of its flowers. The blooms range from dark red flowers to brown. The scent becomes more potent in the evening, which is why this cosmos is popular with gardeners.
6. Cooke’s Koki’o (Kokia cookei)
The captivating Cooke’s koki’o (Kokia cookei) is sadly one of the world’s rarest plants. These flowering shrubs from the mallow family (Malvaceae) were originally native to Moloka’i island in Hawaii. Now, Cooke’s koki’o is thought to be extinct in the wild.
Cooke’s koki’o has orange-red flowers with twisted petals and can grow up to 10 feet tall. Most of these shrubs were felled by Polynesian settlers about 1,000 years ago. The remaining plants relied on pollination from hummingbirds that were lost due to disease. Without these pollinators, wild populations of Cooke’s koki’o gradually disappeared.
7. Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum)
The corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) is a strange plant found only in western Sumatra in Indonesia. Also known as the titan arum, corpse flowers are famous for producing a foul smell similar to rotting meat. This odor attracts carrion beetles and flies to pollinate the tiny flowers within the plant.
Corpse flowers consist of a tall yellow-green spadix surrounded by a large dark red spathe. The surface of the spathe resembles the frills of an upturned mushroom. Although corpse flowers are rare in the wild, several specimens are kept in botanical gardens worldwide.
8. Fire Lily (Gloriosa superba)
Fire lilies (Gloriosa superba) are spectacular perennials that are becoming increasingly rare in the wild. These dramatic flowers have several common names, such as flame lily, glory lily, or tiger claw. Fire lilies belong to the autumn-crocus family (Colchiaceae) and are native to tropical regions of Asia and southern Africa.
Fire lily flowers branch off from the main stem, producing fiery red or orange blooms with yellow edges. Six yellow stamens radiate from the bottom of the flower. The fire lily is the national flower of Zimbabwe.
9. Franklin Tree Flower (Franklinia alatamaha)
The Franklin tree flower (Franklinia alatamaha) is a stunning deciduous tree that belongs to the tea family (Theaceae). Sadly, the Franklin tree flower is believed to have been extinct in the wild since the 19th Century. These trees were originally found in Georgia’s Altamaha River valley in the US.
Franklin tree flower specimens now survive as ornamental garden plants but can be challenging to cultivate. Franklinia alatamaha produces gorgeous white flowers similar to those of camellias. These flowers have a spicy fragrance similar to honeysuckle or orange blossoms.
10. Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)
Also known as white frog orchids, American ghost orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii) are unfortunately listed as endangered. Ghost orchids are indigenous to humid swamps in Cuba and Florida. What’s more, these orchids have proved challenging to cultivate and are protected by state law in Florida.
Ghost orchids are leafless epiphytes that cling to other trees. The white flowers have a large bottom petal with two curving tendrils resembling a ghost. These flowers open one at a time and produce an apple-like fragrance at its strongest in the morning.
11. Gibraltar Campion (Silene tomentosa)
Gibraltar campion (Silene tomentosa) is a rare species of the Silene or campion genus that grows only on the island of Gibraltar. These pretty flowers were considered extinct in 1992 but were thankfully rediscovered in the wild in 1994. In the wild, Gibraltar campions are found only on outcrops of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar campion flowers are pale pink, purple, or white and have five bilobed petals. Gibraltar campion is currently listed as Endangered due to its small wild range. Specimens are also cultivated at the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens.
12. Hot Lips (Palicourea elata)
‘Hot lips’ is the common name for Palicourea elata, also known as ‘girlfriend’s kiss’. These vibrant tropical flowers belong to the coffee family (Rubiaceae). Palicourea elata is native to the rainforests of Central and South America.
Palicourea elata has two voluptuous red bracts that look like kissing lips. These bracts are specialized leaves that attract pollinators to the small white flowers that Palicourea elata produces in the winter. Palicourea elata is considered endangered due to deforestation. These plants also suffer due to over-harvesting as they are popular plants for Valentine’s Day.
13. Indian Pipe Flower (Monotropa uniflora)
Indian pipe flowers (Monotropa uniflora) are unusual herbaceous perennials from the heath family (Ericaceae). These plants are native to parts of Asia, North America, and South America. Indian pipe flowers have waxy white bracts that look like tobacco pipes.
Unusually, Indian pipe flowers don’t generate chlorophyll, which explains their pale white color. Instead of using photosynthesis to make food, Indian pipe flowers depend on mycorrhizal fungi that live on the flowers. These fungi leech nutrients from other trees and pass some of this food on to the Indian pipe flowers.
14. Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys)
Jade vines (Strongylodon macrobotrys) are stunning liana vines native to the Philippines. Also known as emerald vines, these perennials belong to the legume family (Fabaceae). Jade vines can reach up to 60 feet long and are mainly pollinated by bats. Sadly, these vibrant vines are under extreme threat from deforestation.
Jade vines inhabit river banks or ravines in tropical forests and are an essential food source for locals. Jade vines have long pendants of turquoise claw-shaped flowers. Each of these woody pendants can contain up to 75 individual blooms.
15. Juliet Rose (Rosa ‘Sweet Juliet’)
Juliet roses (Rosa ‘Sweet Juliet’) are the rarest rose variety worldwide. This breathtaking tea rose cultivar took breeder David Austin 15 years and approximately $4 million to perfect. Because of the difficulty breeders have cultivating them, Juliet roses are pretty rare.
Juliet roses produce elegant double flowers with apricot petals in the center and white petals around the edge. Each flower has a smaller bloom from the center as they reach maturity. These roses are extremely expensive but also incredibly beautiful.
16. Lady’s Slipper Orchids (Cypripedioideae spp.)
Lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedioideae spp.) are a group of approximately 165 rare orchid species globally. These orchids are believed to have originated in Central America and can now be found across America, Asia, and Europe.
What’s more, Lady’s slipper orchids are unusual because they have small pouches or sacs as the bottom petal of each flower. These pouches are used to temporarily trap insects, forcing them to climb out. As the insect escapes, it brushes against the stamens and pollinates the lady’s slipper orchid.
17. Night-blooming Cereus (Selenicereus grandiflorus)
Night-blooming cereus (Selenicereus grandiflorus) is a stunning member of the cactus family (Cactaceae). Rarely found as a cultivated plant, night-blooming cereus is indigenous to Central and South America along with several Caribbean islands. Selenicereus grandiflorus is also known as the vanilla cactus due to its wonderful nocturnal vanilla scent.
Night-blooming cereus produces large star-shaped white flowers that can be up to 15 inches wide. Each flower is a rare spectacle in nature as they only bloom on one night each year. The scented blooms attract nocturnal pollinators such as bats and moths.
18. Parrot’s Beak (Lotus berthelotii)
Parrot’s beak flowers (Lotus berthelotii) are some of the most dramatic and stunning blooms found in nature. However, they are classed as Endangered and may be extinct in the wild. Parrot’s beak flowers are native to the Canary Islands and belong to the legume family (Fabaceae).
Parrot’s beak plants are evergreen subshrubs that spread across the ground. The orange or red flowers resemble a parrot’s beak that is pointed up towards the sky. Parrot’s beak is also known as coral gem, lotus vine flower, or pelican’s beak.
19. Poke-me-boy (Vachellia anegadensis)
Poke-me-boy (Vachellia anegadensis) is a Critically Endangered member of the Vachellia or acacia genus. Poke-me-boy is a legume family (Fabaceae) member and is indigenous to a handful of the British Virgin Islands. These flowers are under severe threat from rising sea levels, threatening to wipe away its preferred tropical dry forest habitats.
What’s more, Poke-me-boy plants are small, spiny shrubs or trees with pom-pom-like clusters of tiny yellow flowers. Poke-me-boy also produces curved seed pods. Another threat to the poke-me-boy is land clearance for housing developments and other purposes.
20. Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)
Also known as Dutchman’s pipe cactus, queen of the night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) is easily confused with the night-blooming cereus. Although both plants belong to the cactus family, queen of the night is an epiphyte rather than a terrestrial plant. Queen of the night is native to South America but has spread across parts of Southeast Asia.
Queen of the night produces unique white flowers with a strong scent. These flowers only bloom at night. Even though queen of the night is a species of least concern, the flowers are scarce.
21. Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum rothschildianum)
Rothschild’s slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum rothschildianum) are a beautiful rare orchid species. These unique orchids grow only in northern Borneo in the rainforests surrounding Mount Kinabalu. This niche habitat is located approximately 1650 to 3900 feet above sea level.
Rothschild’s slipper orchids have striking flowers with two distinctive thin horizontal petals. Two pear-shaped vertical petals flank a central pinkish-red bract that attracts flies. The main petals feature black and yellow-green stripes.
Incredibly, Rothschild’s slipper orchids can sometimes take as long as 10 to 20 years to mature and bloom.
22. Stinking Corpse Lily (Rafflesia arnoldii)
The stinking corpse lily (Rafflesia arnoldii) is probably one of the most famous rare flowers on this list. These strange blooms are the most enormous individual flowers in the world, growing up to 3.3 feet wide. Stinking corpse lilies are native to the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia.
Stinking corpse lilies are large dark red or brown flowers covered in yellowish spots. They don’t have leaves, roots, or use chlorophyll for nutrients. Instead, they leech nutrients from surrounding vines. Stinking corpse lilies produce a distinctive odor of rotting meat to attract beetles and flies for pollination.
23. Western Underground Orchid (Rhizanthella gardneri)
Western underground orchids (Rhizanthella gardneri) are Critically Endangered plants that spend most of their lives underground. Native to a small area in Western Australia, these strange orchids are threatened by habitat loss to make room for farmland. Western underground orchids absorb nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi attached to surrounding plants to fuel their growth.
Western underground orchids primarily flower underground, although their petals may occasionally emerge from the soil. Each flower can produce up to 100 small blooms. These tiny deep red flowers are protected by a ring of tulip-shaped pale pink bracts.
24. White Molokai Hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. immaculatus)
White Molokai hibiscus (Hibiscus arnottianus subsp. immaculatus) is a member of the hibiscus or mallow family (Malvaceae). These stunning white flowers are native to Molokai Island in Hawaii and are listed as Endangered. White Molokai hibiscus is also known as native Hawaiian white hibiscus or white rosemallow.
White Molokai hibiscus has slightly fragrant white flowers with five wrinkled petals. Cream-colored stamens protrude from the center of each flower, which is a pale green color.
25. Youtan poluo
So little is known about the Youtan poluo that the plant doesn’t have an accepted scientific name. These strange little parasitic flowers are found in parts of Australia, China, and Taiwan. They’re known as ‘udumbara’ in China and are mentioned in traditional Buddhist texts.
Youtan poluo flowers are so rare that it’s believed that they only bloom once every 3,000 years. These tiny white orb-like flowers are often mistaken for lacewing eggs. The blooms emerge from thin, almost translucent stems. Youtan poluo has been found growing as a parasite on palm leaves.
Rare Flower FAQs:
What is the rarest flower in the world?
The rarest flower in the world is the Camellia ‘Middlemist’s Red’. There are just two known specimens of this extremely rare pinkish-red camellia in the world.
What is the most beautiful rare flower?
Some of the most beautiful rare flowers include the chocolate cosmos, Juliet rose, or parrot’s beak. Several rare orchids like Rothschild’s slipper orchids are also extremely beautiful.
What is the rarest flower color?
The rarest flower color is black. Although “true blue” flowers are exceedingly rare, there are also very few black flowers. One of the rarest types of black flowers is the black bat flower.
Do blue and black roses really exist in nature?
Black or blue roses do not exist in nature and can only be achieved by dyeing cut roses. Black and blue are also the rarest flower colors in general.
Types of Rare Flowers – The Final Word
Some of the rarest flowers in the world are exceptionally weird and wonderful. Many of the strangest rare flowers, such as the stinking corpse lily, come from tropical environments. Others were thought to be extinct before being rediscovered, like the Cayman sage or Gibraltar campion. If you’re lucky, you may be able to grow some rare flowers, like chocolate cosmos, at home.