Zimbabwe: Lake Kariba – Amorphophallus aka Black Arum

How about some bizarre and otherworldly plants growing wild and endemic in the forests around Lake Kariba? Here’s a totally weird looking one from the Amorphophallus family. “Amorpho” means “misshapen”, while “phallus” stands for “penis”, and one can see where the name comes from – the plants look totally alien. The deep purple flowers come from the ground without any leaves or stems and totally devoid of chlorophyll. The next year, the green leaves come out without flowers. Underground, there are tubers and bulbs. There are some references that the plant is edible after thorough cooking, although it does contain copious amounts of highly toxic calcium oxalate crystals, the very same material that forms kidney stones in humans. The plant is rare but endemic to some of them moist forests around the Lake Kariba.