23 Rare & Exotic Orchids That Will Amaze You [+ Images]

With their happy colors and delicate grace, orchids instantly brighten up any dull space in the home – but there are graceful and there are downright weird orchid species.

From the jaw-droppingly expensive to those resembling animals and others capable of growing underground (yep, you read that correctly!), these are the strangest orchids you’ll ever see!

1. Shenzhen Nongke Orchid

A man-made marvel, this unique flower was cultivated for over eight years in a lab by agricultural scientists of the Shenzhen University in Guangdong and remains one of the most expensive flowers ever sold.

It features large light green petals and a patterned white and purple lip.

  • Scientific Name: Orchidaceae ‘Shenzhen Nongke’
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Price: $290,000 (single stem)
  • Average Size: 10-20 inches tall
  • Key Features: Purple/green/white, blooms once every 4-5 years, lab-created plant

2. Gold of Kinabalu Orchid

There are fewer than 50 of this orchid remaining in a fenced-off area in its wild habitat of Mount Kinabalu in northern Borneo.

It has an eye-catching gold-and-burgundy pinstripe design in its four petals, two of which are narrow and horizontal, and has a deep crimson and yellow pouch-like lip.

  • Scientific Name: Paphiopedilum rothschildianum
  • Other Names: Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid
  • Average Price: $6,000 (single stem)
  • Average Size: 1-2 feet tall
  • Key Features: Pinstriped petals, blooms April-May, takes 15 years to grow

3. Ghost Orchid

This eerie but beautiful orchid lacks foliage of any kind and grows from a dull-green stem that blends into its dark swamp marsh and tree habitat, leaving its slender beaming white petals and longer front tendrils appearing as if they’re floating in mid-air!

  • Scientific Name: Dendrophylax lindenii
  • Other Names: American Ghost Orchid, White Frog Orchid
  • Average Price: $75-120
  • Average Size: 20 inches tall
  • Key Features: Bright-white “suspended” petals, blooms June-August

4. Hochstetter’s Butterfly Orchid

The Hochstetter’s Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera azorica).

With its population isolated to a volcanic ridge on the Azorean island of São Jorge in Portugal, this remarkable flower has been dubbed “Europe’s rarest ever orchid.”

It features broad dark-green leaves at the base of a single flower spike that teems with small white and light-green petals resembling butterfly wings.

  • Scientific Name: Platanthera azorica
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Price: $6,000+
  • Average Size: 1012 inches tall
  • Key Features: Pale green/white wing-shaped petals, blooms June-July

5. Paphiopedilum Stealth Orchid

The Paphiopedilum Stealth Orchid up close.

A stunning hybrid of P. rothschildianum and P. hsinying maru, the “stealth” orchid owes its enigmatic name to its dramatically dark wine-hue petals that are almost black.

This dark shade covers the central lip entirely and most of its three upper petals, while the lowest petals hint at the parental pinstripe pattern.

  • Scientific Name: Paphiopedilum Stealth
  • Other Names: Stealth Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 1-2 feet tall
  • Key Features: Dark-purple petals, pinstripe pattern, blooms Nov.-March

6. Western Underground Orchid

This astonishing parasitic orchid resides in the outback of Western Australia and grows (and blooms) below ground by drawing nutrients from the fungi living in the bush roots!

It features over a hundred crimson and cream flowers inside blush-pink petals and uses its strong scent to draw pollinating ants.

  • Scientific Name: Rhizanthella gardneri
  • Other Names: The Underground Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 6 millimeters long/5 millimeters wide (inner flowers)
  • Key Features: Flowers underground, small crimson flowers and pink petals, blooms May-June

7. White Egret Orchid

A bird’s-eye view of this stunning Japanese-native orchid reveals the shape of the white egret bird in flight.

Each light-green stalk holds roughly eight bright-white flowers, which each possess two lateral fringed petals with a 1.5-inch “wingspan” and a protruding “neck” petal.

  • Scientific Name: Habenaria Radiata
  • Other Names: Crane Orchid, Fringed Orchid
  • Average Price: $50-60
  • Average Size: 12-18 inches tall
  • Key Features: Pristine white, fringed lateral petals, blooms for 4 weeks each summer

8. Fly Orchid

In a brilliant feat of nature, this European orchid found from Ireland to Spain and Romania resembles a common fly perched on light green petals!

Its long lip is reddish brown and hairy with a silver-white middle resembling folded wings and a pair of brown “antennas.”

  • Scientific Name: Ophrys insectifera
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Price: $20-30
  • Average Size: 15-20 inches tall
  • Key Features: Pendulous red-brown lip with silver patch, green petals, blooms in early June

9. Blue Disa

This majestic orchid features showy bluish to violet flowers with deep-blue horizontal petals and a hood containing two olive-green petals.

The central lip meanwhile is dark purple with a splash of white. Its bright colors often beacon cheated pollinators hoping to find nectar!

  • Scientific Name: Disa graminifolia
  • Other Names: Grass-Like Leafed Disa
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 20 inches tall
  • Key Features: Violet-blue flower, white/dark purple lip, blooms Jan.-March

10. Monkey Orchid

This quirky orchid found in parts of Peru and south-eastern Ecuador smells sweetly of ripe orange when in blossom, but the most intriguing feature is that its four slender curled sepals hang down like the long limbs of a monkey.

At the top of its white and lilac-dipped “limbs” is a head-shaped lip!

  • Scientific Name: Orchis simia
  • Other Names: Naked Hanging Man Orchid
  • Average Price: $40-50
  • Average Size: 6-11 inches tall
  • Key Features: Distinctly lobed white/purple sepals, orange fragrance, blooms April-June

11. Western Prairie Fringed Orchid

Found in the wetlands of the American Midwest, this quaint and pretty orchid grows on tall grass-like stalks and produces around 40 pristine white flowers measuring about 1 inch across.

Each flower has a white domed hood and two pairs of deeply fringed upper and lower petals.

  • Scientific Name: Platanthera praeclara
  • Other Names: White-Fringed Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 30-40 inches tall
  • Key Features: Bright white flower, fringed petal pairs, blooms June-July

12. Hawaii Bog Orchid

The rare Hawaiian Bog Orchid or Peristylus holochila.

This critically-endangered orchid is the rarest orchid species in Hawaii and features small yellowish-green flower petals growing from bright-green egg-shaped leaves on a tall tubular stalk.

As of 2014, there are believed to be fewer than 30 in the wild.

  • Scientific Name: Peristylus holochila
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 10-20 inches tall
  • Key Features: Yellow-green petals, green egg-shaped foliage, tubular stalk

13. Duck Orchid

This eye-catching orchid has its sepals, petals, and lip aligned to resemble a miniature duck in flight!

The Australian-native flower features large pink or purple central “body” petals with two narrow vertical petals for the wings and a curved front lip with a lighter-colored tip for the duck’s beak!

  • Scientific Name: Caleana major
  • Other Names: Flying Duck Orchid
  • Average Price: $20-30
  • Average Size: 18-20 inches tall
  • Key Features: Deep pink/purple petals, narrow vertical “wings,” blooms late spring-early summer

14. Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid

A yellow lady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) in the woods with drops of dew on the petals.

Deep in the swamps and woodlands of North America lies this bright and unusually shaped orchid.

A deep buttercup-yellow pouch – akin to a lady’s ballet slipper – sits below three pinstriped maroon and light-green petals which are slightly coiled, looking like the slipper’s ribbon ties.

  • Scientific Name: Cypripedium calceolus
  • Other Names: Yellow Lady’s Slipper
  • Average Price: $30-40
  • Average Size: 10-15 inches tall
  • Key Features: Bright yellow pouch, matures in 6-11 years, blooms in early spring

15. Sky-Blue Sun Orchid

This joyous orchid hails from Tasmania and is named “Sun” as its azure-blue petals can only be coaxed open in the direct warmth of the sun.

Around six star-shaped flowers grow from a single dark-green stem and produce sky-blue outer petals with a yellow and white inner lip.

  • Scientific Name: Thelymitra jonesii
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Price: $70-150
  • Average Size: 12-15 inches tall
  • Key Features: Azure-blue petals, blooms October-December, fails to bloom during droughts

16. Bee Orchid

The Bee orchid or Ophrys apifera blooming.

The intricate detail on this strange orchid fools insects and humans.

The velvety yellow and deep-burgundy pattern on its pendulous lip appears to be a female bee taking nectar from the pale pink petals, and it even emits the scent of a female bee to attract nearby males!

  • Scientific Name: Ophrys apifera
  • Other Names: Bee Bearing Orchid
  • Average Price: $95-120
  • Average Size: 6-11 inches tall
  • Key Features: Burgundy-brown/yellow lip pattern, downy texture, blooms June-July

17. Owl Orchid

This cute, friendly looking orchid takes on the guise of a happy, sleeping owl once it’s in full bloom!

Its broad base petal is splashed with burgundy “feathers” and topped with a yellow-and-brown lip “beak” while the trio of deep-pink petals above paint the face with detailed red markings for the eyes.

  • Scientific Name: Miltoniopsis ‘Lila Fearneyhough’
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Average Price: $40-60
  • Average Size: 11-15 inches tall
  • Key Features: Pink/red/burgundy markings on white petals, blooms for six weeks in spring/fall

18. Queen’s Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Two Queen's Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium reginae) blooms.

Hiding in the swamps and meadowlands of North America is this touch of royalty.

This orchid bears the same deep pouch and petal shaping of the Yellow Lady’s Slipper but in a demure mauve-pink which contrasts beautifully with its bright-white petals and ridged deep-green leaves.

  • Scientific Name: Cypripedium reginae
  • Other Names: Showy Lady’s Slipper
  • Average Price: $20-30
  • Average Size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Key Features: Large mauve-pink lip, bright-white petals, blooms April-May

19. Devil Orchid

From afar this teensy pink-and-purple orchid appears as pleasing and dainty as any other common orchid, but a closer inspection reveals a frightful devil’s face staring back at you with glowing yellow eyes!

The translucent pink striped petals aren’t much cozier either as the ends are claw-sharp.

  • Scientific Name: Telipogon diabolicus
  • Other Names: Demon Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 2-4 inches tall
  • Key Features: Translucent striped pink petals, deep-purple center

20. Coleman’s Coral Root Orchid

This strange and exceptional orchid can be found in only three areas of the Sky Islands in Arizona and grows beneath the ground by collecting nutrients from the roots of nearby shrubs and trees!

Its flowers bloom above the surface, however, displaying deep purple petals that recurve like ribbons.

  • Scientific Name: Hexalectris colemanii
  • Other Names: Coleman’s Coral Root
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 15 millimeters (central lip)
  • Key Features: Deep-purple recurved petals, blooms yearly under excellent conditions

21. Dragon’s Mouth Orchid

Found in the swamps of North America and parts of Canada, this showy orchid grows tall on a single grass-like stem and produces a bright pink-purple flower with three slender top petals and a protruding purple-and-white mottled lip with a yellow “fire-breathing” center.

  • Scientific Name: Arethusa bulbosa
  • Other Names: Bog Pink Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 12-15 inches tall
  • Key Features: Large purple/pink petals, patterned lip with bright-yellow center, blooms in summer

22. Goat Orchid

The bizarre petals on this Australian-native orchid are thought to resemble the head of a goat when observed straight on (especially when the flower “nods”).

Atop its tall stem are four white-and-crimson dashed petals, the lateral pair of which sit horizontally for the ears while the central hood and broad lip reflect the face.

  • Scientific Name: Diuris venosa
  • Other Names: Veined Doubletail Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 10-15 inches tall
  • Key Features: White/crimson egg-shaped petals, erect maroon stem, blooms during summer

23. Donkey Orchid

A group of three Donkey Orchids blooming.

Found in Western Australia, this pretty pale-yellow orchid resembles its namesake in petal form and character due to its high tolerance for warm and often harsh conditions.

Seated above its protruding hood and lip with a crimson marking is a pair of perfectly ear-shaped petals.

  • Scientific Name: Diuris drummondii
  • Other Names: Tall Donkey Orchid
  • Average Price: Unknown
  • Average Size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Key Features: Light-yellow petals with crimson stripe, blooms Oct.-late Jan.

Conclusion 

Each of the above orchids are a breathtaking sight for any collection, but many are sadly endangered due to increasing popularity and deforestation.

Before you take home one of these unicorn flowers, get the expert low-down on basic orchid care and start from there.

Imaage credit: Aosp Ficalhoana, Kadia Joel Barenbaum, Julio El Vago