Tag Archives: nature

Garden of Horrors: Hydnora Africana

The idea of parasites is already creepy enough. Something deriving nutrients at the expense of a host can give one the willies. This has been amplified in fiction—many of our monsters are parasitic in nature. But parasites are common in nature and particularly common in the plant kingdom. While most look harmless, some can be downright disturbing, looking more like a movie monster than a plant. Think I’m kidding? Enter the Hydnora africana.

The flower of the Hydnora africana
The flower of the Hydnora africana

Not that’s not a Graboid. It’s a parasitic plant that lives mostly underground attached to the roots of its Euphorbia host. It has no leaves and doesn’t produce chlorophyll—but it does flower. After heavy rainfall, it reproduces by means of a creepy-mouth flower that emerges from beneath the ground and attracts pollinators. How does it do that, exactly? Well, it emits an awful odor that smells like poop. Fun! This, in turn, attracts dung and carrion beetles. The flower then traps the bugs for about a days allowing them to gather up pollen, then the flower opens like a monstrous mouth and the bugs are free to go find another Hydnora africana. It’s all very romantic.

PBS Digital Studios (arguably the best YouTube channel today) did an episode of Gross Science where Anna Rothschild explores the weird life of the Hydnora africana. She goes into more details on how this parasitic plant lives and reproduces. You can check it out below.

So, not only does the Hydnora africana look like a special effects monster taken from an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, but it also smells like feces, and apparently (if you’re interested) this horrific thing is edible. After pollination, the Hydnora africana grows a fruit underground and apparently it tastes pretty dang good. So, if that sounds delicious to you… uh, have at it.

Happy gardening.

☠️ More Garden of Horrors

Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Garden of Horrors: Pterocarpus Angolensis

Garden of Horrors: Pterocarpus Angolensis

Fantasy authors love coming up with fantastical names for the trees that inhabit their magical worlds, and as readers, we all enjoy learning about new species of strange flora be it George R. R. Martin’s ghostly “weirwood” or J. K. Rowling’s violent “Whomping Willow.” But our own world is ripe with plant life that sometimes seems almost fictional.

Enter the Pterocarpus angolensis a type of tree from southern Africa. It’s also known by its common name: the bloodwood. Why? Well, because it bleeds, man. It bleeds! Want proof?

Pterocarpus angolensis—the bloodwood, bleeding
Pterocarpus angolensis—the bloodwood, bleeding

Ack! I mean, doesn’t it look like this tree was the victim of a horrible crime? High levels of tannins (the same stuff in red wine) are what gives the tree’s sap its dreadful color. Because of its red hue, the sap is often used as a folk remedy for blood conditions. I mean, if it looks like blood it must be good for blood, right? Right? Folk remedies aside, the tree has been shown to have actual medicinal benefits as well. (See all its uses in this extensive PDF document.) I also found a video on YouTube of something cutting into a bloodwood, and it’s as disgusting as you’d expect. It looks like something from a horror movie.

Yuck. Funny enough the P. angolensis isn’t the only tree that bleeds red. Australia has a species named the Corymbia calophylla, a type of eucalyptus that oozes a red kino and also looks like a murder victim. That video above might be from the latter. Either way—gross.

So yeah, now you know some trees bleed red, and it makes most fictional creations seem almost tame in comparison. Happy gardening!

☠️ More Garden of Horrors

Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Hydnellum peckii

Garden of Horrors: Hydnellum Peckii

Sometimes nature is downright bizarre. Take the Hydnellum peckii, commonly called the “bleeding tooth fungus” (it’s also called “strawberries and cream” by people who, I assume, have never had strawberries or cream before.) When young the Hydnellum peckii produces a fluid that makes it look like a mushroom murder victim. It appears to “bleed” a red juice that in certain light looks an awful lot like blood. I’m not kidding, it’s kind of horrific.

A young Hydnellum peckii "bleeding"
A young Hydnellum peckii “bleeding”

The bright red fluid actually contains a pigment that is known to have anticoagulant properties, but it doesn’t stick around for very long. Once the fungus ages the “bleeding” stops and the Hydnellum peckii dries out and looks rather dull.

Despite its appearance, Hydnellum peckii is not poisonous, but the fungus is so bitter it’s considered inedible. Besides, why would you want to put this thing in your mouth anyway? That’s disgusting. Don’t be nasty.

Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Clathrus archeri

Garden of Horrors: The Clathrus Archeri

The natural world is weird, wonderful, and often terrifying. Case in point: this morning, I stumbled across the Clathrus archeri—a real-world Lovecraftian species of fungi. Its know more commonly as the “devil’s fingers,” but to me, it looks more like a chthonian spawn emerging from its egg. The sticky black gleba doesn’t help. Don’t believe me?

Clathrus archeri
The devil’s fingers breaking free from their shell.

While originally from the Australasia the devil’s fingers have spread over the last century. Mycologists think that during WW1 the Clathrus archeri hitchhiked on Australian supplies for the war effort. Likewise, these stowaways have also shown up in California where it’s believed they arrived with shipments of bamboo. If the picture above hasn’t creeped you out, here’s a timelapse I found on YouTube showing one emerge.

Oh, and when mature they smell like rotten flesh. Because of course.

Friday Link Pack 07/02/2015

It’s an extra-large holiday weekend here in the States. Why not celebrate it with an extra-large Friday Link Pack! Some of these links I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…


Amazon Sues To Block Fake Reviews On Its Site
This article is a few months old, but it somehow flew below my radar. It’s nice to see Amazon taking some steps towards removing this practice. Never, ever, ever, EVER, pay for reviews. They are as unfair to your readers as they are to you.

Mad Max: Fury Road And The Art Of Worldbuilding
I loved Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s easily my favorite movie of 2015. In this article, I go into depth on how director George Miller created such a wonderfully thought out action flick, with deep well-developed characters, and a breakneck pace.

Gay Vampires And Bisexual Cowboys: Why Erotica Gas E-Readers To Thank
The Guardian looks into the growing popularity of the erotica genre and the correlation with the rise of e-readers and the privacy afforded by them. There’s also a bit that goes into the psyche of readers of erotism. Personally, it feels stifling as an author. I’d hate to try something different and have my audience revolt.

Online Is IRL
Chuck Wendig wrote this piece in response to the backlash erotica writer E.L. James received on Twitter during her #AskELJames hashtag campaign. It’s some good thoughts surrounding how we treat one another online and how as critics we should always focus on the work, and not the creator themselves. [Note: Wendig later withdrew this statement. I’m not really sure why? Because he’s a man, I guess? All I see is one author stepping forward in the defense of a fellow author. YMMV, the initial article is still great.]

The Modern History Of Swearing: Where All The Dirtiest Words Come From
If you have been reading my blog for some time you’ll note that I am a fan of etymology and the evolution of words. This article from Salon delves into the histories of some of today’s dirtier words.


The Anamorphic Graffiti Of Odeith
While anamorphic street art is always fun, Odeith takes it to the next level. I particularly like it when paint is used on the ground to help take that 3D effect to new places.

Yes, Androids Do Dream Of Electric Sheep
So, Google set up a feedback loop in its image recognition neural network. The result were these strange hallucinatory images of animals, buildings, people, and landscapes. Beautiful, maybe. Terrifying, absolutely.

The Corey Press
Lovecraftian woodblock prints created by Drew Meger in Salem, MA. Really love all of these (the Nyarlathotep piece, Sage of the Sands, is my favorite.) If you like what you see, make sure you check out his Etsy store. (I featured Entfuhrentanz, Die Herzogin, for the featured image this week.)

Kisung Koh, Recent Work
My own art tastes have veered away from animals over the last few years. However, there was something incredible about these recent pieces from Canadian artist Kisung Koh. They go beyond your typical paintings of animals and into something else entirely.


Go Play Gran Text Auto
Yesterday, a friend of mine launched his new game for iOS. It’s part driving and part texting. It’s fantastic, hilarious, and free! I highly recommend checking it out. iOS only for now. Here’s the link to download.

The 6 Alien Species Currently Fighting for Control Over Earth
Well, this is certainly… er, interesting. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the blog post is serious or not. [Thanks for Will from Dorkshelf and Art of the Title sharing this.]

Netflix Is About to Be Bigger Than ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox
It’s a banner day… er, decade, really… for new media, and Netflix is the vanguard. You know those execs who never thought Netflix was going to make it are kicking themselves right now. And to thin, Netflix used to be the company that shipped DVDs to people.

9 Creatures So Unfathomable They’re Named After Monsters
We’ve already looked at the six species of aliens fighting over our planet. Let’s look at what they’ll inherit! Atlas Obscura (my favorite blog) lays out this strange menagerie. Creatures named after the hydra, to flying dragons, to the goblin spider.

We’ve all been there. We’re fighting a monster, trying to pick a lock, or rolling to see how successful one of our abilities are… and… epic fail. Well, the gamers over at blastr have put together this slideshow of 27 dice that didn’t behave and the consequences their poor rolls wrought on the outcome of the game.


Raven Paradox
“The raven paradox, also known as Hempel’s paradox or Hempel’s ravens, is a paradox arising from the question of what constitutes evidence for a statement. Observing objects that are neither black nor ravens may formally increase the likelihood that all ravens are black – even though, intuitively, these observations are unrelated.”


A man begrudgingly moves to a new town, and while wandering the streets at night he meets a mysterious stranger who begins to show him visions. Some interesting connections to Lovecraft’s personal life and his racism in this story. I highly recommend checking out the Wikipedia page for He.


Crows gunna crow.

The Meowing Crow

So, this Saturday I stepped out to empty some recycling. It was rainy and cold, and when I got to the street I heard a meowing sound. I emptied the recycling and noticed that the meowing persisted. My neighbor has a cat, the cat sometimes meows, I figure the cat had been locked outside and was upset. Makes sense right? So, I look around…there’s no cat and the meowing continued.

Eventually, I figured out that noise was coming from above me. When I looked up there was a crow perched on a power line…meowing. I stood stunned for a while shocked at how accurate a mimic the crow was. Finally I came to my senses and ran inside to grab my phone so I could record a video of him performing. The result is the video above. I wish it was longer—the crow flew off shortly after I shot this—but you can definitely hear the little guy mimicking a meow.

So, I submit to you this video as further evidence that crows are not only smart, but pretty much the best. I’m glad we can all be in agreement. If you want to learn more about the intelligence of the corvid family I highly recommend this video from NOVA, it goes into great detail and is well worth the watch.

(Oh, something book related, right: only 7 days until the Old Broken Road cover is revealed! Woohoo!)