So at first glance, the Hydrona africana looks like something out of Tremors or Dune. Possibly this inspired the great worms of those films somewhat? But, the Hydrona africana is indeed a plant,although it is a parasite. It has no green leaves to conduct photosynthesis to nourish itself, so it burrows great tangles of roots underground,propigating across much of the African continent, to attach itself to the roots of Euphorbia plants. In a way, it is like a fungus.
But oh, that’s not all. The Hydrona africana also stinks. Specifically, when it blooms–yes, that horrific red-orange maw is actually its flower–it emits the smell of feces. Lovely. But, the smell attracts dung beetles, and the dung beetles crawl into the flowers, where a tasty snack of succulent juice awaits them. Downward-facing hairs on the rim of the flower’s fleshy lobes keep the beetles from crawling out as the plant closes around them for a few days, in order to ensure that the beetles get the plant’s pollen all over themselves. After several days the plant opens a bit more and the beetles can crawl back out, and on to–hopefully–other stinky Hydrona africana plants just waiting to be pollinated by their little six-legged guests.
Upon further research, I have learned that Hydrona africana is eaten by many humans and animals alike, and is similar in texture and taste to a potato.