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Lorraine Phelan
Lorraine Phelan

Orchids: Masters of Plant Pareidolia

Lorraine Phelan
Lorraine Phelan

Pareidolia is the tendency to see familiar or significant images in places where none is intended. Classic examples are sightings of Jesus or the Virgin Mary in wood grain or the pastime of looking for shapes in clouds. Pareidolia is encouraged in the Rorschach inkblot test. There are plenty of examples in the natural world, and orchids are particularly notable for looking like something else.

Lady Orchid

Photograph by Jeantosti.

Orchis purpurea, or Lady Orchid, range through Europe and Northern Africa. The lovely blossoms show a wide purple skirt and a fabulous hat, under which you can almost see a pair of demure eyes. We don't know why a plant would grow flowers that look like a lady, but we can sure see it.

Monkey Orchid

Photograph by BerndH.

The monkey orchid (Orchis simia) is said to be shaped like a monkey's body. A male monkey, to be sure. See more pictures of them in this post.

Naked Man Orchid

Photograph by Lumbar.

Orchis italica is native to the Mediterranian area, and is sometimes called the Naked Man Orchid. You can see why. The blossoms even have little eyes and smiles!

Dracula

Photograph by Eric in SF.

Dracula radiosa is an orchid native to Colombia. It might not look the way you picture Dracula from the movies, but it certainly has a creepy face staring at you. Dracula is the genus name, and there are over 100 species, so the face in this flower has nothing to do with Dracula. Still creepy.

Monkey Face Orchid

Photograph by Flickr user Eric Hunt.

Dracula simia is another species in the Dracula genus. As the name implies, the blooms of this orchid look exactly like a monkey's face. See more pictures here.

Moth Orchid

Photograph by Arad.

There are about 60 species of Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis), which are native to Asia and popular among orchid growers. Many of them, if you look really close, appear to have a small bird emerging from their center. Get a closer look at this pink specimen.

Get an even better look at the bird in another photograph at Flickr.

Flying Duck Orchid

Photograph by Flickr user Lorraine Phelan.

The Australian orchid genus Caleana is still not fully classified, but it is commonly called the Flying Duck Orchid. The shape evolved to attract the sawfly, which pollinates the plant. Each component of the flower is design to use the sawfly, like a bright color for it to see, a place to land, and a petal that traps the fly into taking a pollen-rich route out. That's one smart duck!

Bee Orchid

Photograph by Hectonichus.

While we can't say that nature intended for an orchid to look like a male body or a flying duck, the orchid genus Ophrys has a simple reason for looking the way it does. The Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) bloom resembles a bee in order to attract bees. When a male bee tries to mate with the flower (because it's so pretty), he ends up pollinating it. Using an insect to achieve plant sex is common, but using insect sex to achieve plant sex is brilliantly weird. It apparently works well, because Ophrys ranges over several continents. You can read more about orchids that imitate insects at NPR

Fly Orchid

Photograph by Flickr user Ann Mead.

Another species of Orphys is the Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera). The flowers not only look like flies, but also smell of insect pheromones. Found all over Europe, the Fly Orchid does not even have to produce nectar to draw flies for pollination purposes.

A Well-dressed Orchid

Photograph by Javier Díaz Barrera.

Javier Díaz Barrera took this picture of an unidentified orchid in Spain just a couple of months ago. Can you see the little smiling man wearing a suit and tie? You have to wonder what kind of insects this is supposed to attract! My guess is that it is related to the Ophrys genus.

Bonus: Hooker's Lips

Orchids may be the masters of plant pareidolia, but they aren't the only plants that look like something else. Psychotria elata is a tropical plant that produces the psychedelic chemical DMT. The plant is also called Hooker's Lips. I can't imagine why.

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Ice Water Games, YouTube
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5 Smartphone Games That Let You Tend Plants and Chill Out
Ice Water Games, YouTube
Ice Water Games, YouTube

Being in nature is naturally relaxing, but city-dwellers don’t always have an opportunity to get outside. Gardening can be therapeutic for mental health, but you may not have access to a garden—or even the space to tend a houseplant. You can still have a few moments of horticultural meditation every day. It will just have to be digital.

Over the last few years, video game developers have released a number of mobile games that revolve around the simple act of tending to plants. These games are, for the most part, slow-moving, meditative experiences that focus on beautiful graphics, calming soundtracks, and low-key challenges. They’re a great way to de-stress and pursue your gardening dreams, no watering can required.

Here are five relaxing, plant-centric phone games you can download now.

1. VIRIDI; FREE

Viridi is like Neopets for plants. The game is dedicated to nurturing a pot of succulents that grow almost in real time. You can plant a variety of succulent species in your virtual pot. Spritz your plants with water when they’re thirsty and wait for them to grow. Each week, a new seedling will be available for you to plant. The game moves slowly by design. You can let it run in the background, and your plants will do their thing, just like a real plant would. These ones are even harder to kill than real succulents, though.

Find it: iOS, Android

2. TOCA NATURE; $2.99

Toca Boca makes games for kids, but honestly, Toca Nature is pretty fun no matter what your age. You can create your own natural landscapes, adding trees, water features, and mountains. Different natural features attract different animals, and the type of landscape you make shapes whether you’ll get bears, beavers, or birds living there. You can collect berries, feed the animals, or just enjoy planting trees.

Find it: iOS, Android

3. BREATH OF LIGHT: RELAXING PUZZLER; $1.99

In Breath of Light, your job is to bring a garden to life by manipulating a stream of light. Move rocks and mirrors around your zen garden to harness and direct the life-giving light emanating from a single flower. When the light hits another flower, it causes that plant to grow. The very simple puzzles are designed to help you chill out, and the award-winning soundtrack by the audio designer Winterpark features binaural tones that are naturally relaxing. “As a unique, gamified version of guided meditation, Breath of Light helps you enter a state of calm serenity without you even noticing,” according to Killscreen. Sorry, Android users—the app seems to have disappeared from Google Play, but it’s still available for iPhone.

Find it: iOS

4. PRUNE; $3.99

Prune is a puzzle game with a horticultural twist. The object is to plant a tree, then as it grows up, guide it with careful pruning, helping the branches reach the light while staying away from the cold shadows or hot sun, both of which will kill the tree. As the levels rise, you’ll need to contort your trees into ever more complex shapes.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. EUFLORIA; $4.99

If you like your gardening to be a little more high-stakes, Eufloria is out of this world. Seriously, it’s about colonizing asteroids. Your mission is to grow trees on far-off asteroids, sending your seedlings out to turn gray space rocks into thriving landscapes. Your seeds hop from asteroid to asteroid at your behest, creating a chain of fertile life. Sometimes, alien enemies will attack your flourishing asteroid colonies, but don’t worry; you can beat them back with the power of more seeds. The game can be fast-paced and competitive, but there’s a “relaxed” play option that’s more meditative.

Find it: iOS, Android

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National Gallery of Victoria
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Yayoi Kusama's Flower-Filled Installation Has Art Lovers Seeing Red
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria

"Subtle" would probably be the last word one would use to describe the work of 89-year-old artist Yayoi Kusama. Her larger-than-life installations tend to feature loud colors, funhouse-esque mirrors, and frenzied patterns—and her latest work is no exception.

Her installation, Flower Obsession, was specially commissioned for the Melbourne-based National Gallery of Victoria's Triennial, an art event supported by the government of Victoria, Australia that ran from December through April. Gallery organizers said they counted 1.2 million visitors at the Triennial, making it the most visited exhibition in the gallery's 157-year history.

Many people came just to get a glimpse of Kusama's color-crazed world. As My Modern Met reports, gallery-goers were invited to stick faux daisies onto the walls and surfaces of an otherwise drab space made to look like the inside of an apartment. Eventually, a sea of 550,000 red flowers engulfed everything in sight, from light fixtures to chairs to a toilet. Up until April 15, 2018, only those in attendance got an up-close look at this evolving installation. But new images, released by the National Gallery of Victoria, are giving art lovers around the world the chance to see this amazing piece for themselves.

A portrait of Yayoi Kusama wearing a red wig
Artist Yayoi Kusama
National Gallery of Victoria

A doorway covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A kitchen covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A living room covered in flowers
National Gallery of Victoria

A flower-covered toilet
National Gallery of Victoria

Kusama explained her inspiration prior to the show's opening:

"One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern," she said in a statement. "I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant, my soul was obliterated."

In the past, Kusama has spoken out about her experience with mental illness and the hallucinations she's had since childhood, many of which have inspired her work. "My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them," she once said. "They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe." Kusama has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric facility in Tokyo since 1977.

Flower Obsession isn't the first time Kusama has introduced the concept of "obliterating" a space. For a previous installation, visitors were encouraged to place colorful polka dots on the white walls of a room. To see this installation and others by Kusama, check out the photos below.

A room covered in polka dot stickers
The Obliteration Room (2017)
Alex Wong, Getty Images


Longing for Eternity (2017)
Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images

An installation using pumpkin shapes and mirrors
Infinity Mirrored Room (2017)
Alex Wong, Getty Images


Infinity Mirrored Room—Filled with the Brilliance of Life (2014)
Karim Sahib, AFP/Getty Images

[h/t My Modern Met]

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