What’s with these alien plants in my yard?

Moving to southern Africa has led me to discover all sorts of strange and bizarre plants that don’t behave the way my grade-school teachers taught me the way they ought to.

First, I thought this tree was dying last spring (i.e. October in the southern hemisphere), when all its leaves started falling off.  Then it started sprouting bright red flowers.  It eventually lost all of its leaves by early summer:

To the right, you can see the tree in Autumn.  I know – lush, green leaves.  Turns out this is Brachychiton acerifolius, a tree native to Australia that is all mixed up.

Then these cactus-like succulents started sprouting these giant red pods (ok, about 2 inches long – but the plant is only 3 inches high) which eventually opened into these foul-smelling 5-pointed flower the color of dried blood:

This hairy plant made outdoor barbecues much more pleasant for the next 4-5 days.  Turns out this is the “Carrion Plant” (one of several known as such) which emits the smell of rotting meet to attract flies for pollination.

Now we have this Aloe (?), which has sat quite unnoticed at the bottom of our yard – though it is pretty large – since we’ve been here.  But recently, it sent up a 20-foot stalk (I don’t think it took more than 3-4 days to shoot up that high!) which is now flowering.  Southern Africa is known for its varieties of Aloe, but I think what we may be dealing with here is Agave Americana, the “Century Plant” which lives 10 to 30 years, and flowers once at the end of its life.  Maybe we will plant some Carrion Flowers in its place?

I’m not going to try and figure THIS one out.  It’s not in my yard, either though.


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