Worst Flower

The world’s largest flower is also one of the worst smelling flowers. Rafflesia Arnoldii is often over 3 feet wide and its petals are almost an inch thick. You wouldn’t want it in your garden, however, because it smells like a rotting animal. The flower is attempting to attract flies for pollination.


Rafflesia Arnoldi, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Whale Oil

The fine machine lubricating oil for which the sperm whales were hunted was mostly in their heads – up to 500 gallons (1,800 liters) of it in one whale. Until modern chemical technology, nothing lubricated as well as whale oil. Now there is even more valuable stuff that forms in their intestines – ambergris. This foul-smelling grayish-black stuff is used by the perfume industry, not for its smell, but because it has been found to cause other smells to last longer.

Zoopharmacognosy

In the new science of zoopharmacognosy, scientists patiently watch animals to learn about how they medicate themselves. In the most profound case, chimpanzees who are not feeling well seek out a plant called aspilia and eat one of its leaves whole. Upon studying this plant, scientists have found a chemical in it that is a strong antibiotic which may even reduce some cancers. Elephants and bears also treat themselves pharmacologically.