Friday, May 23, 2014

Freaky Flowers

Photo by Todd Terwilliger

There's just something about skulls and roses that seems to go together, and they're two elements that creepy artists, metal bands, and tattoo aficionados all over the world have been drawing inspiration from for years.  But what happens with life imitates art?  You end up with the rosa calvaria, or "Death Rose."  This photo above, as shared multiple times on social media sites, is often found with the accompanying description:

"The Death Rose (Rosa calvaria) is a rare and mysterious plant species.  Beautiful when blooming, the buds form skull like faces when wilting.  Biologists still don't understand how the Death Rose forms these shocking designs as they are impossible to grow in lab experiments."

Perhaps they are impossible to grow in lab experiments, because there is NO SUCH THING AS THE ROSA CALVARIA! 

Research into this photograph reveals nothing about this species in any type of scientific journal or plant databases.  In fact, most of the information is simply given as a cut and paste of the blurb above.  So if there is no such thing as a rosa calvaria, what the heck is this thing?

The photograph was taken by photographer Todd Terwilliger and posted to his Flickr account back in June of 2010.  According to the description, this was taken in the garden by Notre Dame.  In fact, a similar photo of the same flower around the same time was taken by a Flickr user named Shawna, which shows the flower just slightly more opened up.

And, as cool as the image is, its nothing more than a wonderful example of pareidolia in the wilting pattern of a normal rose.  Pareidolia (or matrixing to you Ghost Hunters fans) is simply our mind trying to make sense out of random patterns.  We're designed to visually try to put together random stimuli into an organized and known image, most often, a face.  And...in this case, a skeletal face is what seemingly pops out to most people!  However, according to one Tumblr user who analyzed the photo using error-level analysis software, the image seems to have had some digital manipulation to help it along the way.  Since this is an art photograph, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a certain level of digital enhancement and photo editing, but I honestly do not believe that the actual skeletal face was significantly  augmented...especially after seeing Shawna's very similar photo.

But don't be sad...even if this photograph isn't what it seems to be, there are plenty of other creepy and scientifically recognized plants out there with similar attributes!  Check out the seed pods of a snapdragon plant!  Those definitely resemble little, creepy alien skulls!

Truly terrifying snapdragon seed pods


And if you're more into horror from an olfactory point of view, the corpse flower (in addition to looking like it could suck your body dry of your soul) gives off the odor of rotting flesh in order to attract insects to pollinate it.  This particular beauty is the very large variety of corpse flower known as the Amorphophallus Titanum.  (Yes. You read that right. PHALLUS.)

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